The vast majority of theses in this collection are open access and freely available. There are a small number of theses that have access restricted to the WWU campus. For off-campus access to a thesis labeled "Campus Only Access," please log in here with your WWU universal ID, or talk to your librarian about requesting the restricted thesis through interlibrary loan.

Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Stevenson, Joan C.

Second Advisor

Marshall, Robert C., 1948-

Third Advisor

James, Paul E., 1975-


At least 40% of food is wasted in the USA and comprises a significant portion of landfills. That wasting food is accepted practice in 2014 contrasts with changes since 1900 and during both world wars when the US government enacted hygiene standards but also encouraged elimination of waste. Bellingham is a city in northwestern Washington in which many businesses recover and redistribute “wasted” food. There are substantial donations to the local food bank of foods that cannot be sold and foods are also gleaned from local farms. Additional recoverable nutrition is in trash dumpsters. Recently published literature on “dumpster divers” describe who participates but there is little on the types and quantities of foods recovered. The goal here is to determine who participates and what kinds and quantities of foods are recovered. Flyers describing the research and requesting volunteers were distributed at the local “Alternate Library”. Snowball sampling was attempted. Data were collected by personal observation and for participants by survey, journal and dietary recalls. Few provided detailed data. Participants were almost exclusively middle class males, often students between ages 18 and 30 years, aligning with “freegan” traits. Eaten foods still reflect cultural norms for what is edible. Dumpster diving may be stigmatized due to hygiene norms for all but young males who view it as adventure and protest. People most in need of caloric supplementation may not want to risk the negative attention.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Dumpster diving--United States--Attitudes--Case studies; Dumpster diving--Social aspects--United States--Case studies; Food supply--Social aspects--United States

Geographic Coverage

United States




masters theses




Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this thesis for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author's written permission.

Included in

Anthropology Commons