At my campus, we are always looking for ways to make life better for our students, and not just in academics and future jobs. Many of our students have a variety of issues that make it difficult for them to complete their programs. I can't solve all of them, but I'm always on the lookout for ways to help.
I know that Publix, our local, large grocery store chain, gives away bakery goods that are at their pull date. Once, long ago, I did the bakery run for our church's food pantry. I was amazed at the amount of bakery goods given to our food pantry.
I wrote the letter and had the campus director sign it. I took it to the Publix, and I was told that I could show up any time either after the store closes at 11 or before it opens at 7. Last Thursday, I showed up, but there was nothing set aside. The manager suggested I call next time.
On Sunday, I called to see if they would have anything Monday morning. The person on the other end of the phone said, "Oh sure." I half expected to arrive to find nothing again.
I was wrong--two carts of food were set aside for me, enough to fill up the back of my Prius hatchback. It all had a pull date of yesterday. I set out a lot of it in our student break room: lots of donuts, various types of bear claws, some rings with pecans, 6 kinds of muffins, 5 boxes of croissants, and a bag of bagels. I put the loaves of bread in the freezer, with a sign that invited people to take a loaf, if that would be helpful. I put aside some cookies for an event today. I put other pastries in the freezer of the fridge in the other break room.
Most people were enthusiastic to arrive at school to find a variety of treats. Some groaned about the weight they might gain. But I know that some of our students have food and financial instability. It's not the most nutritious food that we offered yesterday, but it's food.
I had thought I might go back again tomorrow, just to see if a Wednesday haul is different from Monday. Did we have so many treats yesterday because the bakery manager planned for more sales on a week-end? Is that what they throw away every day? Surely not--it's a small Publix.
I think I'll just go once a week, unless I perceive that people would benefit from more bread. I had hoped for more bread to give away, as it's more nutritious than pastries and it can last several days.
It's a shame that there's no shelter that needs the food. It's a lot of food, and I know there's lots of hungry people out there. There are days we won't be picking up the food. There's enough to share.
Through the morning, as I threw away the packaging once the food was eaten, I reflected on the waste not only of the food that might be thrown away, but the packaging--so much packaging. In my quest to feed a hungry campus, we filled up one big garbage bag with cardboard, plastic, and foil.
I can't solve these problems. We live in a society where for most of us, it's cheaper and takes less time to buy baked goods at the grocery store, which means that we'll have a surplus of bakery items and the packaging that makes it possible to sell bakery items. We live in a society where many people experience food scarcity, even as enormous amounts of edible food are discarded. I cannot redistribute all that food by myself.
So I will do what I can do. I will pick up a load or two of bakery items each week. I will hope that it makes the campus a more cheerful place to be (which hopefully will help our retention numbers). I will hope that some of the food gets to our students who genuinely need the calories. I will hope that those of us who shouldn't eat those calories are able to resist them. I will hope that the good outweighs the problems.