ALLENDALE, Mich. - A Grand Valley State University freshman is rolling up his sleeves to prove just how wasteful people can be, picking out hidden gems and fresh food from trash and donating them to people who need it most.
After two years of dumpster diving, 18-year-old Matt Smith claims he's found $35,000 worth of stuff in the garbage. It became a form of therapy for Matt after spending three weeks in the hospital for anorexia. He says dumpster diving has given him a new and healthy perspective on food, and is now raising awareness on the issue of food waste.
"I've found anything you can imagine," said Smith. "I have the laptop that I use for classes, tons of bluetooth speakers, iPods and phones."
But it's not just electronics that are being thrown out; Smith says huge quantities of food are being tossed out all over the nation because of expiration dates. The USDA estimates we throw away up to 40 percent of the food we buy and sell. For Smith, that wasted food is called 'dinner.'
"I personally hate them [expiration dates], it's a huge contributor to food waste," said Smith. "That signifies next to nothing, it has nothing to do with health and safety."
He says the food isn't bad, only past the suggested 'peak-freshness' from the manufacturer. But he isn't collecting the food just for himself. Smith has been storing some of it in boxes in his parents' basement, donating it where he can, saying the need is great.
"When you're going to these food pantries and these nursing homes, you really see people struggling. People don't have what they need and it creates that personal connection, and it just really clicks," Smith said.
After years of dumpster diving, Smith understands we're throwing away more than just food and iPods.
"Look at the resources of water, all the chemicals sprayed onto the crops, the labor put into the products, the petroleum that goes into transporting it to the store. All of that is wasted once the food is thrown out," Smith exclaimed.
Dumpster diving is not illegal in Michigan, however Matt says he's had the cops called on him a few times. He encourages those who are interested to be cautious, courteous or just plain sneaky.
Matt says anyone in need of food can actually reach out to him on social media, and you can follow his dumpster diving excursions on Instagram.