Thursday, December 6, 2007

Day 139 - If It's So Good, Why Is It Leftover?

Replating Food When in a Metro Area

Today's post is about a really cool movement underway in major metropolitan areas. It is called replating and it's a wonderfully simple way to reduce waste while helping to feed the hungry.

When in an urban setting, simply place your unwanted leftovers (in a doggie bag of some sort) on top of the nearest trash can so they don't go to waste. The homeless and indigent can more easily access the food this way and it reduces the amount of organic waste that ends up in our landfills. It is truly a win-win situation. Here is the DL and some FAQ's from Replate's website:

We started this project because we noticed that people in West Coast cities and beyond were leaving their leftovers on top of (or next to) garbage cans when they couldn't find someone to give them to. We thought this behavior was worth talking about, so we gave it a name. Now that it has a name, there's been a lot of good conversation. Here are the issues that keep coming up:

Won't the food go bad and make people sick? People are eating food out of the trash. They are digging into public trash cans, pulling out old, dirty food, and eating it. Surely food that's on top of the trash, and not mixed in with the muck, is less likely to make a person ill. Surely food that's in plain sight and easily accessible will be picked up sooner (and thus in a fresher state) than food that's hidden in the trash.

The idea of food left outdoors feels messy. Some have worried that food will rot or that rats will get to it before hungry people do. This is a legitimate concern in small towns or sparsely populated areas, but certainly not in a town like San Francisco where, at any given moment, there are many people without enough to eat.

Why not just eat your own leftovers? Of course. Many of us do. But sometimes you just don't, for any number of reasons. Rather than toss 'em out, or go traipsing through the city looking for a hungry person, maybe the next best thing is to replate them.

Incompatible trash cans. Apparently, New York City trash cans don't have hoods or ledges, so there's no horizontal surface on which to replate. This isn't as big a problem as some have suggested. If you want to give someone the food you're not going to eat, simply put it next to the trash can, or on a newspaper dispenser.

Evil people. There's a strange paranoia in the conversation about evil people poisoning the food. Sure, it could happen. But you could also get pushed in front of the subway train. Or someone could put razor blades in your Halloween candy. People could betray your trust in any number of ways, but if you ride the subway, or eat Halloween candy, you know that the fear far outweighs the actual risk.

The City should officially get involved. Some have suggested formalizing a leftovers drop-off point like a food bank, free dining room, or some city-sponsored receptacle. We think that's a great idea. Make it happen.

If replating your leftovers counts as activism, then the bar for activism is set way too low. Maybe that's true, but though the first steps of activism (however you define it) are small ones, they form the foundation for the giant leaps to come. And replate is just the beginning of a conversation that we hope will inspire greater action. And don't forget that this is an open-source movement. It's yours as much as anybody's, and you can build on it however you want. So if you don't think it's activism yet. And if you want to make replate bigger and badder and more hardcore, we've got a hunch you'll get all the support you'll need.

As you all know, I'm a big, fat chicken when it comes to going downtown here in Richmond, but it I do occasionally find myself in a metro area and I'm sure you do too. So the next time I eat out in a city and can't finish my food, I'll be getting a doggy-bag to replate. Hopefully, by posting about the idea, I will also inspire others, who may dine out more than I, to do the same.


Hmmmm, three times a year? So, three plates of food. But how many of you will do it? And how many people will you tell? If nothing else, it's an interesting topic, bring it up at your next cocktail party and we'll get this idea going, k?

Difficulty Level: 1 out of 5

Leave doggy bag on trash can so someone else can enjoy your leftover rigatoni. Besides, you know it won't taste the same once you get it home and nuke it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I'm eating out and know I won't be able to take home my leftovers, I deliberately order something small, like an appetizer, so there won't be any leftovers. This doesn't address the issue of feeding the hungry, but it does help prevent the waste of food and eliminates the disposable take-out box. (And I usually keep a small plastic container in my purse for leftovers, so I don't need the disposable take-out box when I can take leftovers home).