Friday, November 4, 2011

Scrounged food

A glowing-eyed ghost dog guards the pumpkins?
This week I nabbed 3 pumpkins, left-over from a charity event that our snowstorm cancelled.  The organizer wrote to the staff at our college,
Does anyone have a suggestion for what we can do with 25 pumpkins? Other than throwing them in the trash, that is.
I offered to take three off her hands and turn them into dinner for our family.  (The organizer wrote back, "I didn't realize that people would eat the pumpkins - I thought it was just neck pumpkins." sigh)

This got me thinking about other ways that I scrounge food. I've done a lot of food-scrounging at formal events on our campus the past few years, partly because for a while I had a job that involved LOTS of lunches and dinners for groups of people. For those who might have similar opportunities, I offer some of my own advice for snagging left-overs from a company lunch or dinner.
  1. Stick around to help clean up.  I don't pack up food while the event is going on; that'd really raise eyebrows!
  2. Be prepared. I keep several boxes of ziplock bags in my office, near where the lunches and dinners would be held. Plastic bags are not, I know, the most environmentally friendly container. But they're socially acceptable as a way to give food to other people, which is important because of advice item #3.
  3. Give food to other people first, starting with the needy and the absent.  I always try to start with people who have a social reason to want free food:  students are a great example of this category.  Someone who has an absent friend/spouse also makes a good target:  "Mary, I know George must feel awful to be stuck at home with a sprained ankle.  Would you like to take him a piece of cake?"  (When I asked for the pumpkins for myself this week, I also suggested a local set of refugees who could use some cooking pumpkins).
  4. Then branch out to offering food to anyone else who is sticking around at the end of the event.  
Once one person takes some food, that breaks the ice.  I've found that at this stage, people usually start talking about what a shame it would be for all this food to go to waste; it'll just get thrown out; etc.  That is exactly the right kind of attitude, in my opinion.  I think people are just too nervous to be the first one to take food.  But hardly anyone thinks throwing the food away is morally right -- the reluctance to bag it up is really all about appearances and fear of being "tacky".

I try to wait until everyone else has taken all they want.  Then I bag up all the leftovers I can handle.  At this point, I'll sometimes use a more environmentally friendly reusable container, if I have the right kind on hand.  I bag up the bags in my heavy cloth tote, and take the food home.  Since I'm usually one of the very few left cleaning up at this stage, it's easy to do this without seeming like a greedy food snatcher.  In fact, I've often had people apologize for leaving me with all that heavy stuff to carry.  

Clearly this works best in a situation in which I have some kind of official presence.  I can do this at the college where I work; I wouldn't attempt this at an event at my husband's work.  And the fact that the food is purchased (not home-made) makes a difference, too -- the whole subject is moot at most pot-luck events, because everyone takes home their own food and knows not toss it.  

1 comment:

  1. We've done this for years too at church events--ALWAYS stay to help clean up, package up food to take to the shut-ins, and enjoy the left overs.