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Thursday, October 22, 2009

When worlds collide, Part 3 (Updated!)

WASTING FOOD gets in our collective, metaphorical craw, so to speak, so it was only a matter of time before our ingrained mission proclivities clashed with the Sodexo practice of throwing away leftovers.

Fr. Paul O'Brien approached this member of the all-important Food Committee and asked if it were true that kitchen staff would be fired if they took home leftover food. I asked head chef Mike McLoughlin and he assured me they would not be fired but would, per Sodexo policy, be written up. While it sounds harsh, a rational mind sees this as the only way to avoid legal, not to mention serious health issues.

Sodexo must follow strict guidelines for the quality, cooking and preparation of foods. This is why they do not allow outside foods to be brought in and cooked in our kitchen nor will they supply uncooked foods (hamburgers, for example) to be cooked outside our kitchen at employee or Maryknoll cook-outs.

The question of leftovers is stickier. Technically speaking they should not even be putting leftovers in our kitchenettes, according to Ms. Margaret Sheehan, Sodexo general manager. We asked, and they complied, with our request to offer leftover entrees one more time in our food line. After that, state law requires whatever remains be thrown out.

"Could not this have been given to the poor?" resonates from the gospel. (OK, so it was spoken by Judas but the sentiment is valid.) The answer is, "No. Not unless you want the poor to get sick from food poisoning."

What is envisioned, I think, is some adaption of the Second Harvest program in NYC and other cities where upscale restaurants donate leftover food at the end of the day to local food pantries. According to Sheehan, City (or Second) Harvest allows food pantries to pick up leftovers at the end of the business day by employing special trucks equipped with "Flash Freeze" technology that keeps the food frozen until needed.

Plus, restaurants cannot re-serve leftovers and such things as bread and rolls are not an issue with us. The solution, Sheehan says, is to plan and cook accordingly, minimizing the amount of overproduction and, subsequently, waste.

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