It’s easy to understand how Tony Moyer and Sam Troyer might arouse suspicion.
On any given night in Lebanon, Pa., you might stumble upon both men wearing black clothing, gloves and headlamps while crawling inside grime-filled dumpsters behind restaurants and chain stores.
If it seems sketchy, the brothers-in-law say they have a perfectly valid explanation: They’re dumpster diving for good — scavenging for food that’s been discarded in large commercial waste containers, and then sharing their scores.
The two men started raiding dumpsters last year to gather discarded, uneaten food for themselves. But they discovered so much food that they started donating it to charitable organizations around central Pennsylvania, according to Pennlive.com.
The men told the outlet they thought they were being helpful.
But in October, they were arrested while dumpster-diving outside a CVS store in Hershey, Pa., according to Pennlive.com.
The men have been charged with defiant trespassing and loitering and prowling at night, both misdemeanors in the third degree, the site reported.
They are scheduled to appear in court three days before Christmas.
“[Police] usually just ask us what we were doing, pat us down really quickly, and we never really had anything dangerous on us,” Troyer said. “They’d run our licenses, check for warrants. They sometimes tell us they don’t want us to come back, and we’re always compliant.”
Referencing Dauphin County property records, Pennlive.com noted that their defense could be further complicated, because the dumpster is on private property owned by a company based in New Jersey.
A spokesman for CVS Health said in a statement that the Rhode Island-based company doesn’t “condone dumpster diving,” but that company officials “never pressed charges” against the men — and “have no plans to do so.”
“The incident occurred while the store was closed and we were made aware of the arrests by police the next day,” the statement said.
“Our CVS Pharmacy locations work with local nonprofit organizations including Feeding America, the Salvation Army and local food banks and shelters to arrange for damaged or near-expired goods to be donated to those in need in the communities we serve, and helps ensure that our disposed products reach people in a safe manner,” the statement added.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 30 to 40 percent of the American food supply is wasted.
“This estimate, based on estimates from USDA’s Economic Research Service of 31 percent food loss at the retail and consumer levels, corresponded to approximately 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010,” the agency says. “This amount of waste has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change.”
“Wholesome food that could have helped feed families in need is sent to landfills,” the agency adds.
The average family of four discards more than 120 pounds of food each month, CBS News reported in 2009.
Though many people don’t realize it, CBS reported, many perishables are still edible beyond their “sell-by” dates. The reason for this, according to food expert Rebekah George, is that food companies leave consumers a cushion that many people aren’t aware of.
“They always leave room for error, because people won’t always abide by the sell-by date,” George said. Keep in mind, she added, “that your fridge has to remain at 40 degrees Fahrenheit, or below, at all times.”
Moyer and Troyer told Pennlive.com that some of their biggest dumpster hauls have come after stores tossed their holiday-themed candy, which, the men maintain, is still safe to consume.
Rob Greenfield, an environmental activist, launched a GoFundMe campaign for Moyer and Troyer after their arrest.
The fundraising campaign — which bills itself as the “Dumpster Divers Defense Fund” — calls for charges against the men to be dropped and promises to use money raised to pay for the legal bill of dumpster-divers everywhere.
So far, the campaign has raised just over $1,500 of its $5,000 goal.
A video created by Greenfield in Moyer’s and Troyer’s defense refers to them as the “nicest guys ever.”
The men told Pennlive that while they perhaps shouldn’t have dressed so suspiciously while dumpster-diving, they hope their arrest leads to increased awareness about food waste.
“There needs to be a change made with these chain stores and big box stores instead of writing it off and throwing it out of sight, out of mind,” Troyer said.
The food, he said, should be “given to people who can actually use it.”