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.