Thursday, September 8, 2011

"Scrounging"

I'm reading a book called American Wasteland. It's about the amount of food that goes to waste. This is an important topic of discussion to me because as a farmer I've seen first hand a) the hard work that goes into growing each and every crop. b) the distribution of crops needs to be planned and precise for it to get to the consumer at just the right moment c) As a fellow human being it is a travesty for food to go to waste while others starve.

The chapter that I found most compelling is about a tradition at Reed College  in Portland, Oregon called "scrounging".
To save money, some Reed college students "scrounge" by standing in a  of area and eating the leftovers of their board paying classmates. It's an established custom, so students with meal plans know to drop off uneaten items at the two tall tables near the dish return... While saving money, not avoiding waste is the main motivation of the scroungers, the practice still minimizes the discarded food (and the school composts what isn't eaten by scroungers).  And some scroungers are particularly proud of their role in keeping food out of the college's waste stream by putting it into theirs...
After about ten minutes of scrounging, it feels completely normal. It's like asking your family member, "Are you gonna finish that?" - only with a family of, say, 1500...
 My lunch looked like this: one bite of a quesadilla, two cherry tomatoes from a ranch-dressing-drowned salad, four cucumber slices, numerous bites of pizza crust and one near whole slice, lettuce from a different salad, half a banana and the filling from an Asian chicken wrap...
When an item arrives, the modus operandi is to take a bite and pass it along. When everyone's had their fill, the plate is usually pushed to the middle. Scroungers will go back for a forkful when the donations slow. After items languish for 20 or 30 minutes though, one of the scroungers usually takes it upon him or herself (and it's often herself, unfortunately) to bring them to the dish return...
...someone dropped off an apple chewed on all sides. I mentioned that surely nobody would eat what was, essentially, a glorified apple core. "Give it time," Meyhew said. It'll get eaten. And within five minutes a female scrounger started working on it.
...the scrounge commandments are published annually in the school paper. Dictums such as "thou shalt not covet the trays of those who have not yet eaten" helps maintain the tradition from year to year.
...On the topic of scroungers' health, the ones I asked said they believed their exposure to a wide variety of germs sharpened their immune systems. And they rely on food donors not to overburden their in shape natural defenses. One of the Scrounge Commandments aimed at board-paying students reads, "Thou shalt protect the house of the scrounge from the great plagues." Boarders who are sick convey that message by covering their food with another plate as they head to the tray return, or by simply telling the scroungers that they 're sick as they walk by with leftovers. Some scroungers will risk it if it's a really slow meal. Sharing drinks, soups and cereal is generally avoided however, because it's easier to transmit germs via liquids.
 That last part about germs was convincing to me. When my kid's friends come over to eat I throw away their leftovers, as oppose to eating them like I would with my kids. I am more persuaded to eat them having read that. 

1 comment:

  1. The final paragraph, mmmm, I don't know...
    I think the thought is incomplete. We need more context to the idea of lower barriers to disease transfer.

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