2015 Dumpster Study















February-April 2015

Beginning in February 2015, The Gleaners’ Kitchen embarked on a qualitative study of a local dumpster, the results of which were shared at an immersive community event entitled Dinner, Together. Rachael also wrote a paper interweaving dumpster diving, capitalism, Marxism, and community-building entitled Feasting on the Capitalist Underbelly: A Multisensory Exploration of Garbage and Value. Rachael received one of three Ted Shapiro Awards for Best Senior Special Project in American Studies.



February 2015: This study is part of my (Rachael’s) senior capstone project at Tufts. For 14 nights in February and March, we’ll be heading out to one of the most reliable local dumpsters and taking every usable food item we find (I’ve never run into anyone at this dumpster in the 2+ years I’ve been dumpster diving there, so we won’t be taking food on which someone else depends). Then, the day after we’ve brought it all home, I’ll record the items we found, along with all of the information about them I’m able to glean. This will include data like country of origin, company name, place of distribution, etc. In the end, I’ll have quite a long spreadsheet.

What I will ultimately do with all this data remains to be fully fleshed out, though I have lots of ideas. My vision is to host an event in early May, somewhat akin to a gallery opening, but without all the stuffiness/silent staring. I’ll create visual representations of the local dumpster data, as well as representations highlighting the connections between the food found in the study and the life cycles of that food through the lens of human labor. Of course, a lavish dumpstered meal will be central to the event. The room will be decorated with dumpstered relics – lots and lots of flowers at minimum. I want to make everything as interactive as possible, without being kitschy. As always, your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are more than welcome.

It is egregious enough that we waste so much food when so many go hungry, and when such large-scale food production leads to rampant environmental destruction. This is being discussed on a national scale with increasing frequency, but such discussions are all too often incomplete. There is a certain kind of sick and unacceptable irony at play when those responsible ensuring our nation’s food supply – and thus our survival – face some of the worst working conditions and opportunities for livelihood of any industry, while 40% of the fruits of their labor piles up in landfills. We cannot talk about food waste without talking about this.

Here’s where you all come in. Dumpstering alone is no fun, and it takes far too much time/energy. I’ve created a sign-up calendar so anyone interested in dumpstering in February or March can sign up for one or more nights you’d like to go together.

Any amount of support you can contribute to this endeavor (in the form of time, ideas, connecting me with other interested people, etc) will be deeply appreciated and enrich the process. At the core of this project is the idea that we can collaborate and communicate in creative and productive ways to build transformative communities that prioritize people and the planet over profit.

Love, Rachael / The Gleaners’ Kitchen

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