Alumni dives into advocacy

Jeremy Seifert, a John Brown University graduate (’99), turned dumpster diving into a social cause. Most see a dumpster as trash, but Seifert sees dumpsters as the solution to end hunger in America. To demonstrate his point, he produced a documentary released in 2010 entitled “Dive!”

“Dive!” follows Seifert and his friends as they live off of the leftovers from numerous grocery stores.

“We eat like kings,” Seifert claims in the documentary.

Each night they set out behind stores such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Safeway and Vons, dumpster diving to find their next meal.

Daily, grocery stores discard large amounts of edible food into the dumpsters. Stores usually dispose of food that is near its expiration date.

“If 854 million people go hungry every day, why are our trash cans filled with food?” the documentary asks.

The answer is simple: convenience. It is easier for grocery stores to dispose of near-expiring food than to redistribute it. In his documentary, Seifert calls companies and consumers to better stewardship. He attacks the issue of redistribution of resources.

A scene in the documentary shows Seifert and his friends contacting local grocery stores on New Year’s Eve, collecting their discarded food and redistributing it to a half-way home. This simple act captures the vision Seifert is calling his audience to.
Seifert’s passion and adventurous spirit is nothing new, just redirected. Frank Huebert, director of discipleship, and Seifert’s fellow student, remembers him from their University days.

Huebert knew Seifert and his friends for their “stunts and pranks that usually tip-toed over the line.”

“It did not really surprise me that he would participate in something as socially questionable as dumpster diving for food,” Huebert said. “And though I tended to keep a safe distance from his antics as a student, I always admired his sense of adventure and the full-heartedness with which he approached life.”

Seifert’s passion for dumpster diving began a few years ago when some friends came to visit and brought trash bags of delicious food they had hauled out of a dumpster. Their friends shared where the food originated from, inspiring Seifert to follow in their footsteps.

“At the very beginning there is this hump you have to get over,” Seifert explained. “You fight this culturally infused sense of shame… but after a few leaps into the dumpster and after acclimating to that unmistakable aroma, you can do it alone. And it becomes as natural as walking into a grocery store.”

Seifert does not call his audience to dumpster dive in response to his film. Rather, he asks his followers to write letters to their local grocery stores demanding a change in corporate policy to end food waste.

Seifert is in the process of producing his next documentary focusing on GMOs, genetically modified organisms. Seifert studied English during his time at the University and later received a master’s degree from Fuller Theological Seminary.