Local10: Restaurant Owners Buy Produce From Dumpster Divers

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Peruse the menu at many of Miami's fine-dining establishments and you'll see proclamations of farm-fresh produce complete with the names of the farms where your tomato or mango was lovingly grown.

That's all well and good, but have you ever stopped to think where cheaper, lesser-known restaurants get their vegetables? You might rightly think they come from a bulk supplier such as Sysco or even from the owner making a Costco run, but did you ever stop to think the red pepper in your salad might have come from a dumpster?

That's what Local10's Jeff Weinsier found in his investigation of dumpster divers who make a living picking produce deemed unfit to sell (or even donate) from the dumpsters outside the Miami Produce Center at 2151 NW 13th Ave., which is the hub of legitimate commercial produce transactions for Miami-Dade.

People "dumpster diving" isn't news. In fact, the act of living off what others have tossed away has its own terminology and following. Freegans have their own meetups and blogs. Mainstream, middle-class Marie Claire magazine even published an article about freeganism.

What is new -- and shocking -- about this story is the fact that one man was caught on camera packing up the produce and then selling it to restaurant owners who planned to use the fly-covered and bruised vegetables in their meals.

Two of the restaurant owners filmed buying from the unidentified pepper-picker were confronted by the reporter. Nopporn Poochareon, the owner of Suvi Thai & Sushi in Homestead, looked surprised that the peppers he bought for cash in the parking lot of the produce center came from the dumpster, and a woman from Mabel's Cafeteria in Miami was filmed returning the peppers after learning the source of the vegetables. Both restaurateurs claimed this was the first time they had bought produce that way.

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