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Dumpster Diving with Paddlewheel Alliance Friends

Thank you to my old hippie friends for helping me avoid hunger today.

I went to college in Bloomington Indiana, which remained beloved in my memory and imagination for many years after finally graduating. Just like in my college prep high school, my friends were not the well-to-do BM&WOC (to modify the phrase “big man on campus” from my parent’s post-war college days).

I made my friends in the various all-volunteer movement groups to which I devoted the majority of my time. The Paddlewheel Alliance fought to stop construction of a nuclear power plant on a bluff overlooking the Ohio River. Its construction was halted in 1984 in large part due to the plant’s history of shoddy construction such as honey-combed reactor walls, in addition to the widespread public opposition organized by the Paddlewheel Alliance and boosted by Three Mile Island in 1979.

I wax nostalgic. My point is that during those days I sometimes joined my hippie/activist friends in “dumpster diving” behind grocery stores. At the time, the phrase wasn’t well known. Store owners were as likely to rip open bags of food and dowse them with bleach as they were to call the police to harass dumpster-divers.

In the years that followed, activists brought attention to the perfectly healthy but slightly bruised or barely wilted food being wasted by thousands of stores across America. Today, food banks often cooperate with local businesses to salvage food that groceries are not likely to sell but which hungry people could use.

Thus, the local produce store (which might look like a coop if you didn’t know better) puts its fine-but-not-likely-to-sell fruits and vegetables out back in boxes on a wooden table. “Caution, bees” reads a sign next to it. It’s nice that the owners save us oldsters from having to climb into a dumpster, root around in trash that also contained non-food grossness, climb out, and jump to the hard pavement below.

So I have no qualms gathering and cooking this really delicious produce. There are days I would not eat at all if not for them. In fact, I’m losing weight less fast since adding their discards to my diets.

Thanks RMF! And thanks to my hippie friends from “back in the day” for preparing me for this.

(Now, as for those endless meetings deciding strategies and positions … and how we had to deal with the most disruptive Paddlewheel members with minimal ability to shut them up … and my FORMER strong belief in the democratic superiority of consensus-based decision-making … that’s a not-so-nostalgic memory topic.)

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