The scene opens with several scruffy-looking young men lingering in a dark alleyway. They sidle up to a dumpster, throwing nervous glances over their shoulders. Are we about to witness a crime?
No, it’s a scene from the 2009 documentary Dive!, and this group of guys is about to go dumpster diving.
In this enlightening film, documentarian Jeremy Seifert, a long-time dumpster diver, sets out to expose the enormity of the scale of food waste, both from consumers and grocery stores, in his southern California neighborhood. Hand-held camera shots follow his journey, showcasing the mountains of perfectly good food that get thrown away every day at most grocery stores. Seifert and his friends feast on foods tossed out for slight cosmetic issues, or an upcoming expiration date. In fact, dumpster diving serves as the primary food source for Seifert’s family of four, enabling them to enjoy fancy products and brands they couldn’t normally afford. “There’s something beautiful about seeing trash turned into a gourmet meal,” his buddy quips.
There’s more to Dive! than watching some oddballs muck around in trash. In just under an hour, the film manages to raise some big questions, like what throwing away edible food says about our national values, and the historical context of how we got to this point. It explores the lack of education about food safety that keeps people dependent upon printed expiration dates. Seifert even ventures to research ways our nation’s wasted food could be redirected to help end hunger.