So sometimes at my office we order lunch as a group and everyone eats together, and as a thank you for working hard and making money, the company foots the bill. It becomes very apparent when the food arrives that no one held back when ordering, and the amount of food is significantly more abundant than it would have been had everyone been asked to pay for themselves. “Get an extra pizza, just in case” “Let’s get a couple orders of fries, you know, just for the table” “Eggrolls for everyone! We’re rich!” The result is a ridiculous amount of leftovers that eventually get thrown out.
The problem is that I hate seeing perfectly good food go to waste. On previous occasions, I would combat this problem by eating myself into a food coma; unfortunately, putting your head down on your desk and napping for an hour isn’t as acceptable as it used to be in say, 2nd grade.
My next attempt to save waste was taking leftovers home and eating them for dinner with my boyfriend. There were many problems with this, however. First and most important, is that I ride a bike to and from work. Dangerous as it is riding in NYC, the danger increased ten-fold when I hung bags of pad thai and spring rolls from my handlebars and attempted to navigate through midtown. Also, everyone thought I was crazy. I became the office garbage disposal; I once came back from the restroom to find a half-eaten sandwich on my desk with a note: ‘I thought you might want this -xo’. No, I don’t want your soggy chips and pickles. Mission aborted.
Then I realized one day this past winter, while walking to the subway (I’m not THAT committed of a biker to ride in the cold) that each day, I pass at least one person begging for food and money. It’s a sad reality of living in NYC. So the next time everyone ordered lunch, I brought one meal with me for my walk home and not surprisingly, there was someone in the subway entrance asking for money. I asked him if he was hungry, and when he said yes I asked if he liked chinese food. He laughed and said yes, so I gave him my General Tso’s Chicken with an egg roll on the side. After that day, I began packing bags of food each time we had leftovers, and handed them out on my way home. Between where I work and home, Herald Square and the 1/2/3 Stop at 72nd Street, I can usually unload 2 or 3 meals. If I can’t find anyone I wind up bringing it home, but I usually have no trouble finding someone hungry.
I’m not sure if this is okay-I know that it would be better to point these people in the direction of a shelter or somewhere to get a hot, free meal. And I have. Is it rude to give someone your leftovers? I don’t think so. They’re hungry. I have food. Seems okay to me. It’s not like I’m having dinner parties with friends and feeding them my co-worker’s scraps.
So maybe you want to try this yourself; here are some tips I can offer based solely on my own experiences:
-Put everything in a bag. I once gave a man an apple and bottle of water while he was begging for change; he thanked me and asked if I had a bag he could put it in-he couldn’t hold his change cup and the apple/water at the same time. It’s not like they can put it in the fridge for later, you know? Bag it.
-Don’t go on a 2am crusade through the park by yourself; be safe and smart about who you’re approaching and where. It may be a good idea to avoid the guy wearing wireless headphones who swears to himself and warns anyone within earshot about the impending doom of the Apocalypse.
-If you can, include a fork, knife, and some napkins. Just because they’re hungry doesn’t mean they don’t deserve to eat like a civilized human being.
- Giving them the original containers is best, as I’ve seen homeless people use tupperware and other recycled containers to gather water or other things that they can then save for later.
-Don’t just throw food at someone-ask first. Also, I tend to only approach people with signs or other things that clearly indicate they are in need; it’s probably pretty embarrassing to approach someone who turns out to just be tying their shoe on the ground.
-There are organizations who travel the city handing out food every day, like the Coalition for the Homeless, or the Bowery Mission. If you’re not comfortable doing this solo, get hooked up with one of these agencies and join their fleet.
Have you done this before? If so, what happened? Please feel free to post any questions or comments.