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Center for a Livable Future


April 14, 2011

Dumpster Scavenging: Making up for Gaps in Food Assistance 

RTI International, a leading research institute, has released a research and policy brief based on a study funded by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, RTI International, and Rutgers University, including former CLF Doctoral Fellow Andrea Smith, PhD, examined food acquisition practices used by low-income Americans who are worried about having enough food for themselves and their households. Their findings were published in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition in early 2011.

Almost 500 low-income Americans who participated in the study reported engaging in diverse food acquisition practices to make up for gaps between the “safety net” of public and private assistance programs (such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and local food banks and pantries) and individuals’ food needs. To make up for the gap, study participants said they used coupons, purchased products on sale and bought in bulk. Others reported that they resorted to diluting baby formula, scavenging from dumpsters, and selling blood to have money for food. These behaviors have implications for the individual, household, community, and larger society, and the gap between individuals’ food needs and the assistance they receive warrants significant attention from researchers and policymakers.

Click here to download the full text of the article, “Food Acquisition Practices Used by Food-Insecure Individuals When They Are Concerned About Having Sufficient Food for Themselves and Their Households.”