In an effort to study and highlight the world’s propensity for food waste — the USDA estimates that 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of the country’s total food supply is thrown out per year in the United States alone — filmmaker couple Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin spent six months eating only food that was meant to be discarded.
That six month experiment became a documentary, Just Eat It: A Food Waste Movie, now available on demand. Rustemeyer and Baldwin conducted the experiment in their native Canada, where they witnessed food waste habits similar to the U.S.
In an interview with NPR, Rustemeyer told Audie Cornish, host of All Things Considered, that it wasn’t even possible to measure how much perfectly safe and edible food they found either in the trash or on its way. “We categorized the amount we took home, and it was about $20,000 of food,” Rustemeyer said. “So, in the six months, we spent about $200 on groceries, and we had about $20,000 of food in our house.”
Although they offered to pay for food when it was destined to be thrown out, most places refused to sell the food. “We ended up resorting to dumpsters and behind wholesale warehouses, and we found copious amounts of food. We found 18-foot dumpsters all the time filled with food, and the majority of that was because it was near the date label, but rarely past it.”
During one excursion, the couple even found $13,000 worth of organic chocolate bars in the trash. And after speaking to a California peach farmer who told them that between 30 and 70 percent of his peaches are disposed of for not looking perfect enough, the filmmakers realized just how ludicrous the concept of food waste was. “Really, we shouldn't even call it food waste, because of all the connotations associated with that word,” said Rustemeyer. “It's surplus. It's extra food in our system that should not be in the landfill that needs to get to people who need it.”