Wisconsin man plans to bike to NYC while eating only out of dump - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Wisconsin man plans to bike to NYC while eating only out of dumpsters

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MADISON (WKOW)-- Trash is in the eye of the beholder. That's the message behind a new awareness campaign started by Wisconsin native Rob Greenfield. Over the last year and a half Greenfield has eaten food out of dumpsters as a way to show Americans just how much food is thrown away in this country.

"We throw away $165 billion worth of food each year or about half of all the food we produce ends up at the dumpster," Greenfield explains.

Greenfield is planning to bike from Madison Wisconsin to New York City eating nothing but food that is found in dumpsters.

"I've donated my last $421 I have to Food Shift, a non-profit that works on food waste and I'm cycling to New York City. I plan to get there on September 26th," Greenfield says.

Most people would consider this a crazy endeavor, but Greenfield has made it his mission to educate the public about food issues. He operates a website called RobGreenfield.TV where he posts web videos and blogs about his environmental activism. Greenfield's high school friend Dane Gottschall is joining him during the Wisconsin leg of his trip.

"It's only trash because somebody put it in the trash, otherwise there's nothing that would define this food as trash," Gottschall says.

The two young men recently went around grocery stores in Southern Wisconsin and collected hundreds of pounds of food from nearby dumpsters. On Wednesday August 13th, they held a smorgasbord for the public, showcasing all of the food that they found. From 4:00-7:00 p.m. curious spectators stopped by James Madison Park to see all of the food.

"Every time we open a dumpster I say it's full of food, I can't believe it. It's still amazing," Greenfield says.

Their message isn't to go dumpster diving. In fact, Greenfield acknowledges the unsafe nature of getting food out of dumpsters. His message is merely to prevent the food from getting to dumpsters in the first place. He's hoping that with increased awareness people will start taking a deeper look at food conservation and wonder if there is anything they can do to reduce their waste.

"We find a lot of perfectly good stuff in the dumpster that most people wouldn't mind eating," Greenfield says. "Throwing stuff away wastes a lot of money, energy, water and other resources. It's a big deal and it's the root of a lot of issues in this country."

Public Health of Madison-Dane County strongly discourages eating food out of dumpsters. Health officials say the biggest concern is that you never know why that food was discarded. There is also the concern about bacteria and food-borne illnesses.

Most grocery stores donate as much food as they can, but a lot of places have restrictions on expired food and perishables like fruits and vegetables. Second Harvest Food Bank in Madison is able to collect some perishable produce from nearby stores through their food rescue program. 

Greenfield says he is encouraged because many of the dumpsters he comes across are sorted. He says a growing number of companies are separating produce from their packaged goods and other garbage. He's pleased to see more companies composting this unused produce where at least the nutrients can be used in the soil.

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