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Garbage In Garbage Out
by Al Boyce
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I'm just a garbage man.

There's no other way to look at it. I pick up things destined for the dumpster and bring them to throw-away people.

It saves the homeless a trip to the dumpster, and postpones by a second or two the time when all landfills will run out of room.

In my experience, the average grocery store throws away 1.5 shopping carts worth of food every day just from the deli department. A lot of it is bread, but there are decorated birthday cakes as well as sandwiches, whole roasted chickens, cookies, doughnuts, a smattering of sushi.

This food is headed for the landfill because it has today's date stamped above the bar code. So, at 9 a.m. today, an 8-piece basket of fried chicken goes from $3.99 to -- FREE. That birthday cake with the $6.99 on it? Let you have it for nothing.

From one store, on one day, you can probably feed 10 people, maybe 20 if you don't worry too much about the food pyramid.

There are about 50,000 grocery stores in the United States, not counting the far greater number of convenience stores. The United Kingdom has another 6,500. I know the logistics are daunting, but my calculator says you could feed 1.1 million people a day on the garbage from those stores.

An estimated 815 million people are undernourished, worldwide. About 15 million deaths each year could be prevented with proper nutrition.

A friend of mine confided in me last week that he had spent $100 on food for one guy who had just been released from prison.

"I can't keep that up," he said. "I don't have the resources."

I asked him whether there was a grocery store near his home. I told him about the American law that waives liability for stores that give outdated food to charity.*

"What if you could get $100 worth of food every day for free?" I asked.

There is such an abundance of food. In fact, God has provided an abundance of everything we need. What is lacking are the hands and hearts to spread His generous blessings around.

Jesus' disciples had to be taught that lesson, even after seeing Christ feed 5,000 people from a few loaves and fishes.

They came upon a Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:22-28) who asked Jesus to help her demon-possessed daughter. The disciples urged Jesus to send her away, for she was not one of the lost sheep of Israel.

"It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs," Jesus said as his disciples looked on.

"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."

Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

What was her great faith? She believed more strongly in the crumbs that might fall from the master's table than the discples believed in miracles received from His very hands! She considered the source so mighty that even the leftovers were sufficient to her needs.

We live in a throw-away society. What if we found ways to glean leftovers not only from large grocery stores but from convenience stores, from restaurants, from meat packing plants?

But what do I know?

I'm just a garbage man.


*Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Edy T Johnson  19 Aug 2006
This has so much good information, and it is interesting to boot! Thank you for writing this for all to see.
Kathleen Fairman 18 Aug 2006
This was wonderful. Very compelling. I'm going to share it with some friends of mine who are affiliated with a local shelter that works with substance-addicted homeless. Thank you for sharing this terrific piece.
Jamie glaser 17 Aug 2006
this was really good. i used to work at a deli and we would donate some of our sandwiches but i am not sure what else. i know we could feed a lot more people if we would use some common sense. people say Christians don't always use common sense, they use blind faith. But don't we believe in the "Guy" who invented common sense??? LOL. so true, thanks for sharing this many blessings
Summer Cordon 16 Aug 2006
Really cool piece of work, and an eye-opener! Summer
Tina Diane Mitchell 15 Aug 2006
Thank you for this reminder today. Souls are hungry for peace that passes all understanding. What is the old saying, "Give a man a fish and he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime." As others read this, may it compel them to offer spiritual food to souls in need. God bless you!
Beth Muehlhausen 15 Aug 2006
Al, this is great! I used to own a bakery, and the Salvation Army would come to pick up rolls (and other things) that didn't sell. On the other hand, there was a local "bag lady" who lived out of dumpsters, and she managed to live out of ours (which held the remains of chicken salad sandwiches and other lunch fare). This made me pretty sad. I once approached my friendly produce man at the grocery where I've shopped for years to ask him what he did w/ cast-off produce. He said it was picked up every night at 4:00 a.m. and that I could have it but I'd have to show up at 3:30 and wait for the truck, then sign something-or-other saying I was taking it. They sure make it hard.
Jan Ackerson  27 Jul 2006
Al, I'm a huge fan of yours...and with your permission, I'd like to use this for the Front Page Showcase for the week of August 14. Wonderful writing, and content to make us sit up and take notice.
Thomas Kittrell 24 Jul 2006
I find this very interesting. On one hand, delightful, that there are poeple such as yourself who will take the time to deliver this food to the homeless. On the other hand, I find it disturbing that grocery stores do not take the effort to donate this food themselves, perhaps some do. If so, God bless them. This might be a good project for churches to consider, as well as retirees with time on their hands. It would even be good for those still in the labor force to take it upon themselves to distribute this food, especially those who live near such grocery stores. I do not know all the legal issues of this, I admit, but surely there is a way somehow. Something for all of us to think about. Thanks for sharing. Thomas


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