Haunted by an Image of Pizza

I saw something unsettling the other day that I can’t get out of my mind. A homeless man was standing at a dumpster behind a pizza place, feasting on discarded slices. That wasn’t the unsettling thing since it seemed oddly normal — we humans have origins as hunter/gatherers, finding food wherever we might. It wasn’t even that the food had been previously nibbled on, because it hadn’t been. Most of the slices of pizza were whole.

PizzahuttWhat haunts me is the sheer bulk of the discarded food. Hundreds of slices of pizza. Huge bags full. Mounds of it. (Did you ever see Space Balls? Pizza the Hutt? The piles of pizza looked like that.)

I have such a respect for food, that even seeing food wasted in a movie, such as a food fight, turns my stomach. Somehow I had assumed others had the same respect for comestibles. And yet, there was a dumpster full of food that people had ordered and not eaten.

Ignoring the dubious designation of pizza as food, it is edible, and supplies needed calories. Only in a society that views food as disposable and calories as something bad can such a situation occur. I don’t know what the solution is, or if there is a solution. Restaurants can’t really donate used food to homeless shelters, though some restaurants do donate leftover food. (I was a at a family-style dinner once where they kept bringing huge platters of food long after everyone had eaten their fill, and those platters of food were taken to a nearby shelter. They could have fed an army that night with our leftovers alone.)

I can’t do anything about the situation, either to help the homeless fellow or deal with the discarded food, but still, the image stays with me.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

9 Responses to “Haunted by an Image of Pizza”

  1. rami ungar the writer Says:

    Ironically, the very same people who throw out those pizza slices instead of saving them or giving them directly to the homeless will be wondering where all the food went when, 100-200 years down the line, the Earth’s population exceeds 9 billion and there simply isn’t enough resources to sustain everyone.

  2. ROD MARSDEN Says:

    In Sydney, Australia there are children and twenty-something people who are growing up or have grown up with the notion that someone will pick up after them. Hence you see discarded half eaten pies on train seats, half full bottles of soft drink left about train stations, etc. I imagine the situation came into being full blown when the railways removed bins from major stations and also bins were removed from major malls and airports because of the possibility that bombs might be placed in them. Well, there are bins in these areas now that are as bomb proof as a bin can possibly be. Regardless, the children who used to put their rubbish anywhere because of lack of bins have gotten used to doing so and continue to do so into adulthood. Then with the young children of today it is a case of they have the understanding that it is someone’s job to pick up after them and so they are also free with their rubbish.

    Years ago McDonalds and other fast food outlets used to give their waste products such as half eaten burgers to the pig farmers for the pigs. This practice was stopped when it was discovered that the pigs were coming down with colds and other human illnesses they’d gotten off the food.

    There was a time when a hamburger, Australian style was all you needed for lunch. It would come with a milkshake or an orange juice. Well, the Australian hamburger is fast disappearing and the size of the American burger has gone down in size. Hence the fries, etc that come with the burger to make a meal. All together too much for some consumers whereas one decent size burger and drink only would have been less because of no need for the extras and in a sense more because all you really wanted was the burger in the first place. In other words, fast food is geared to have you consume more than you really need hence the waste.

  3. Bimble Along Says:

    Why do you feel like you can’t do anything about the situation? Who do you think can?
    I will link a couple of articles and a video that I think you (and everyone else) should read/watch. Note the quote “Everybody is waiting for somebody else to take action.”



    I can’t emphasise enough that this IS everybody’s responsibility, especially those of us in the privileged position to live in countries with surplus food as opposed to none, and you CAN do something to help the situation.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      Actually, I did do something. For one thing, I wrote the blog post, pointing out the waste of food, and for another, I offered to buy the fellow a meal, but he wasn’t interested. For myself, I never, ever waste food. I buy only what I can eat before the expiration date. I believe there is no such thing as leftovers, only food ready for a second meal. I’ve followed this practice my entire life. I also make sure the characters in my books never waste food. I’ve always thought the solution began with the individual, with me.

      If you don’t mind, I’ll share these links in a blog post.

      • Bimble Along Says:

        Well that’s great that you do your bit to help (although I think we can push the expiration date thing. They are deliberately cautious for legal reasons). My comment wasn’t intended to target you as somebody who doesn’t do their part, it was merely a retort to your closing sentence where it sounded as though you were passing responsibility to others. (“I can’t do anything to change the situation…”)
        Anyway you have cleared that up now.
        Please do share the links!

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Actually, I don’t follow expiration dates. To my way of thinking, they are merely expiration of liability dates. Eggs stay fresh for two weeks longer than the date, canned goods for years longer.

          • Bimble Along Says:

            Indeed. We are in agreement on that then.
            The food you find in supermarket bins is often still within the expiration date anyway because many use a sell-by-date as well (sometimes 3/4 days before the expiration date). Hence there is completely edible food thrown out – often excessively sealed in layers of (unnecessary) plastic – and it is, for the most part not half as dirty, rotten or manky as many assume.

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