Put It On The Ground, Spread It All Around, Dig It With A Hoe, It Will Make Your Flowers Grow

On March 26th in Augusta Georgia, county sheriffs saw to the disposal of food and other durable goods at the behest of Laney Supermarket or maybe a bank. The owners, referred enigmatically by local news as “the Chois”, say they were kicked out by a bank over debt. Whether they were owners independently of the debt to the bank (i.e. they weren’t in debt on the original business loan to buy the property) is unclear. They claim to have offered the food to a church, whose members never came to pick it up. Apparently either local reporters failed to ask what church so they could investigate or the Chois declined to answer.

Lan’sakes! How could this happen in America? Well, it’s not the first time, I’ll tell you what.

I worked at Fred Meyer in Portland some years ago, when they renovated the Hawthorne location to be all LEED certified. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It’s a private sustainability credentialing business whose purpose is in part to advance the notion that the market can be used to drive progress.

I worked in the deli, which was right next to the bakery and produce section. I complained about the egregious amount of food-waste coming out of the deli alone to my fellow workers. Of course, it’s corporate policy not to allow workers to have, say, a meal from thrown-away food, even if it’s only thrown away for superficial aesthetic reasons (i.e. they think it won’t sell). Kroger’s all-too-capitalist rationale is that it would encourage workers to throw away more or at least choice food in the hope of ripping off the company. Needless to say, we already threw away more food than we could possibly re-appropriate without, in addition to say a free lunch, taking some home every day. Most of it was perfectly fine to eat when it was pulled and only really became questionable once put in a garbage can.

I complained to co-workers and eventually learned on my own about the plethora of gleaners in the Portland area. So, I talked with the store manager about it (big mistake) and he performed the sympathy farce, saying he’d send the message to his regional manager. I didn’t buy it then, but I didn’t really know what to do. It was my first “real” job, which meant a lack of attunement to the power of the workplace. I encouraged people to talk about it with customers by talking about how I did it myself, though I may have been the only one who did it.

Within a month, we got orders to start putting food in a compost-bin, which was supposed to be part of the LEED stuff. The idea being, I guess, that its more sustainable to throw food in the ground than in the garbage. Why does that remind me of a song? We also had to take these out to the special dumpster for them. The bins we kept in the store easily weighed 200lbs once full. It was a two-person job to actually hoist the thing off its rollers. Sometimes that made it easier and sometimes made it harder to give away food off the top to people who wanted it. At first the dumpster was just like the regular one, except it was green instead of blue. Within a couple weeks, we were told we had to use a key to unlock a chain put on it because people were getting into it during the day. That’s still how it works as far as I know.

So, that just goes to show you how long things have been this way, but also that big bad bankers or reckless capitalists (who are exposed by their lack of “success”) aren’t the only or even most important perpetrators of this kind of bullshit.

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