When dumpster-diving activist Rob Greenfield heard from one of two Pennsylvania men who were arrested last month while looking through a store’s trash for still-good food, he returned to Lancaster to help them.
That was at the invite of Lancaster resident Gwendolyn McComsey, who was following him on social media. So when Tony Moyer and Sam Troyer were arrested, he got in touch with her and she offered her house as a gathering place.
Greenfield, Moyer and Troyer and some other people went on a dumpster-diving spree and shared the bounty at a pot-luck at McComsey’s house. Some food was also donated.
Greenfield also made a short video about the men’s plight while here and he’s created a GoFundMe campaign called the Dumpster Divers Defense Fund to help them and other “food waste warriors” who get arrested.
“To me it’s absurd that people could get in trouble for collecting food,” said Greenfield, originally from Wisconsin but now living out of a backpack as he travels “indefinitely in the service of others.”
Brothers-in-law Moyer, 32, and Stoyer, 26, of Lebanon, have been dumpster diving for about 10 months.
“I liked the thrill of the find and conserving and saving,” Moyer said Monday.
But he soon realized there was more food being tossed than they could eat.
“I couldn’t believe how much stuff we would find,” he said.
So for about the past six months, he and Troyer have also been sharing their hauls with food banks and churches in their community.
And it’s not all food: They once found new pencils and other useable materials tossed out from an office supply store and donated it to a school.
They usually go out a couple times a week, checking trash at stores in the Lebanon and Harrisburg areas, Moyer said.
On Oct. 5, they were at trash bin at a closed CVS in Hershey around midnight when a police officer drove by, Moyer said.
Moyer said they’ve been stopped by police before. When they would explain what they were doing, the officers would let them go, usually telling them to be careful or make sure they have permission, he said.
Not this time.
The officer swung back around.
Moyer said he tried to tell the officer what they were doing and even produced receipts from past donations, but the officer wasn’t interested.
The pair was handcuffed and placed in separate patrol cars for questioning. They were each charged with loitering and prowling and defiant trespass — misdemeanor offenses.
They plan to fight the charges, Moyer said. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 22 before Derry Township District Judge Dominic Pelino.
Manheim Township attorney Juliette Zaengle will represent them.
A friend had forwarded her Greenfield’s video.
“I thought that was kind of goofy,” she said of their arrest.
Zaengle believes they’ve got a good case: Loitering and prowling usually has to do with dwellings and the pair told her the dumpster wasn’t locked or fenced in, which should negate the trespassing charge.
Derry Township police Chief Garth Warner declined to go into details of the arrest, but said, “I think there’s a little bit more to the story than they’re letting on, but that will come out at the hearing.”
Mike DeAngelis, a CVS spokesman, said the store didn’t ask for charges to be filed and was unaware of the arrest.
However, people began posting to CVS’ Facebook page about Greenfield’s campaign and demanding the company to drop the charges. The company responded it wasn’t pressing charges.
As for discarded food, DeAngelis said CVS has a corporate policy allowing stores to donate food and usable merchandise to local charities.