Hunger Is Not a Disease

An Open Letter to Tomo Jacobson


Thanks so much for writing to Chuck Klosterman of the New York Times about dumpster diving.  I appreciate your stand that dumpster diving is moral.  I also like  your question about whether it is ethically wrong to dumpster dive.  I never thought much about the ethics of dumpster diving before.

As a food pantry coordinator, I interact with people every week who dumpster dive to feed themselves as well as their children, parents, and housemates.  We can’t explore the ethics of dumpster diving without exploring the ethics of allowing people in our country to go hungry because they can’t make enough $$$ at their jobs to buy food.

People who come to the Reservoir Food Pantry take a 3-day supply of food home to wherever and whatever that is each week.  The other 4 days, they’re on their own.

That means they can buy the food if they have a SNAP card and if they can get to a store selling food.  If they don’t have either the $$$ or a SNAP card, then they must get creative.  That involves:


Borrowing $$$ from friends, relatives, neighbors

Showing up at someone’s house (friend, relative, neighbor) at mealtime

Sending the children to someone’s house (friend, relative, neighbor) at mealtime

Stealing and (of  course),

Dumpster Diving.

In Woodstock, NY, where I live, a beloved neighbor named  Cassia Berman routinely went dumpster diving for greens (kale, chard, collards).  Cassia was on the library board and taught Qigung at the community center.  She never made a fortune, certainly not enough to buy organic produce at the Sunflower Natural Foods Market.

Cassia felt  good nutrition was her best defense against illness.  I was always grateful for Cassia’s attitude.  She brought class to the whole hunger scene.

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Peace and food for all.

Thurman Greco