Dumpster Diving is something done by all different types of people – middle aged, middle class people who dumpster dive between putting the kids to bed and going to the gym before work; students who call themselves broke after depleting their bank account padded by their parents on one (or more) too many benders at the bar; artists who salvage stuff for projects; and people who take what they need from the side of the street because, other than relying on drop-ins or other forms of charity, that is their only way of obtaining it
Jarrod explains this disparity in this Vice article. “For the privileged, dumpster diving is an easy way to eat well and work fewer hours. For the unemployed and underemployed, it can be one of their only dependable food sources.”
The reasons may be different, but the similarities are greater than anything else – whether you engage in dumpster diving out of necessity or do it as a consciously political act, both are political since we are all bound by the same constraints of capitalism; some of us just experience it in more overtly visible ways.
“Food Not Bombs faces harassment by police and city officials all over the country because their food distribution carts attract homeless people and make them comfortable—the exact opposite of modern urban policy, which uses the hunger and discomfort of the homeless against them, to get them to simply go somewhere else.”
When it’s apparent that capitalism isn’t working – seeing someone on the side of the street wearing holey canvass sneakers and a dirty windbreaker in below zero weather digging through a dumpster – it makes people uncomfortable, and often the response is to remove them from the public view.
I have a unique ‘gaze’ since, while I grew up in a working class home I have some family members who are wealthy. I am an artist working sporadically in the non-profit sector, and while I’m not starving I’m sometimes hungry. When I see people who are clearly in need of help, I’ll let them know where I saw a pair of shoes or when the Asian grocery pushes their garbage cart into the alley. Often the response is one of dismissal – at first it made me upset, but now I realize they may view me as a ‘wealthy’ person. It not only made me ‘check’ my privilege, but I noticed that I react in a similar way when I see people I read as upper or middle class dumpster diving.
What do you do when you see someone else dumpster diving who appears to be from a different socioeconomic background than you?