Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 22, Issue 2, pp 187-202

First online:

Attitudes, beliefs, and prevalence of dumpster diving as a means to obtain food by Midwestern, low-income, urban dwellers

  • Nicole EikenberryAffiliated withDepartment of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota
  • , Chery SmithAffiliated withDepartment of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota Email author 

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


“Dumpster diving” is a term generally used for obtaining items, in this case food for consumption, from dumpsters. This study evaluates the prevalence of dumpster diving in two low-income urban communities in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Additionally, attitudes and beliefs of adults who engage in this behavior are reported. Surveys (n=396) were used to collect data including individual dumpster diving behavior, food security, health, and demographic data. Nearly one-fifth of those surveyed had used dumpster diving as a means to obtain food. Focus groups (n=17) were conducted to further evaluate dumpster divers’ attitudes and beliefs about dumpster diving, use of food assistance programs including benefits and barriers, and other strategies used to obtain food such as stealing. Focus group participants were primarily homeless and most were high school educated. Ways to improve delivery of food assistance are suggested. In conclusion, more research on the use of dumpsters as a source of food is needed. Utilizing more of the 96 billion pounds of food wasted each year in the US through food recovery and donation programs could help to provide socially acceptable means for low-income urban dwellers to obtain food.


Dumpster diving Focus groups Food assistance Food insecurity Food waste Homelessness Hunger Minnesota