Imagine the owner of a local grocery store taking the trash out before closing and accidentally throwing it on some unsuspecting guy rooting around in the dumpster. For Grant Baldwin this was a reality. Only, instead of going through a dumpster looking for food because he was poor, he and Jen Rustemeyer were doing it to prove a point. For six months the pair lived solely off of food waste that they could find in grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and dumpsters. The point that they were trying to prove was that in America we throw out enough food that they could survive comfortably off of this surplus and in doing so, show that we must find a better solution than wasting perfectly good food.
The documentary Just Eat It is an excellent film. It utilizes the story of the young couple to emphasize its point. We get to see Jen break down when she says, “I’m fatigued with this project. I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not that fun,” and then arguing with Grant over whether or not they should continue the project. We see Grant at his low point after having trash thrown on him. “I felt really embarrassed that I was, like, in his bin, and he felt, like, sad for me probably.” Both of these instances make us feel for them and their decision to go through with the project. By using them as the main focus of the story, the documentary becomes much more personal and relatable.
The documentary also supports the idea that we need to find other ways of dealing with our food waste by including other speakers. In the beginning of the film, Grant and Jen talk with a local farmer, Delaney Zayac, at the farmer’s market about what he wastes. He says, “Overall, there can be a lot of a good crop at a market that won’t get sold if it has just a slight blemish or something’s wrong with it aesthetically.” Throughout the film, Dana Gunders, a Food and Agriculture Scientist with the National Resources Defence Council, supplies facts that drive the message that we are wasting food home. At one point she says, “Imagine walking out of a grocery store with four bags of groceries, dropping one in the parking lot, and just not bothering to pick it up. That’s essentially what we’re doing.” It is jarring to think about just how much food is being wasted.
Just Eat It also has fantastic cinematography. There is one sequence in particular that stood out to me. It begins with a small pepper plant growing and follows the bright orange pepper to harvest, transportation grocery store, and finally refrigerator. All while playing to “Don’t You Forget (About Me)” by Simple Minds. The sequence ends with the pepper rotting away in the appliance. It is a perfect representation of the theme of the documentary; we gain nothing by letting this perfectly good food rot away.
Overall, the documentary offered great insight into both the facts and a few options that we may have as individuals in trying to change this problem. It is the perfect starting point for anyone of any age to gain the knowledge to do something about food waste. By using a few simple strategies (none quite as drastic as dumpster diving) mentioned in the film such as freezing food so that we can prolong its life at home or making smaller, more frequent trips to the food store, we each can reduce our waste and help to stop this cycle of wasting perfectly good food.
Just Eat It. Directed by Grant Baldwin. Performances by Tristram Stuart, Jen Rustemeyer, Dana Gunders, Jonathan Bloom, and Grant Baldwin. The Orchard, 2015.