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Garbage In, Garbage Out
by Al Boyce
2/06/2007 / Christian Living
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 I told him about the American law that waives liability for stores that give outdated food to charity.*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.
Al Boyce is a former writer and reporter for The Associated Press. He lives in Raleigh, NC, where he now writes for God.
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