I admit it. I like 7-Eleven. Popping a quick protein bar, quick coffee, or, dare I say it, a nitrite-laden hot dog for some "real food" from time to time. I love the convenience, the maximizing my workdays and not spending too much time or money on eating.
I'm also the hypochondriac kid who learned about "tampered with" food a wee-bit too young (ref: the 80's stories of tampered/poisoned Tylenol and Lipton Soup packs). If it's open, looks a little imperfect, dirty, I wouldn't eat it.
My wife comes from a wiser, thriftier, heartier camp than I. Many early marriage arguments involved her picking out, back from the bottom of our kitchen trash can, a block of cheese I had just tossed. "What, ONE mold spot and the entire block is garbage?" she smirked as she cut off the tiny blue corner. I admit, I was a little over-paranoid.
You can imagine the internal stretch I experienced when one of our 2011
, showed up and spoke of all the glories and benefits of dumpster diving. I put on my good "city-director-love-everyone show," but inside, I admit I was siding with his housemates who were a bit grossed out that breakfast food options had come from the dumpster behind a bagel shop.
But last Wednesday, I finally volunteered to serve in the Food Ministry that my family has been benefiting from for almost a year. It was really a beautiful experience. Obvious fact I learn: our country wastes, or opts against, tons of good food. Literally. Apparently, there are many versions of my former self seeing a slightly dirty or damaged package, and not buying it. That food, on it's expiration date, is sent off to places like the LA Food Bank and other food re-distribution organizations. It's still edible, just not marketable. After those tons of food items go, there is even still some left, and my wife, and the lessons of ben adam, have urged me to embrace this new diet.
Andrea, who's been doing this for over a year, met and trained me at a local grocery store at 9am. We ask for the "spoils". An employee wheels out 7 grocery carts of eggs, bread, desserts, produce, some even organic, frozen meats of all kinds, even chocolate bars sometimes. We load up our vans, drive to two other stores, same process.
Along the way, I get to know Andrea, about her family. She obviously knows the store employees who come out, knows the process, has great moments of kindness and catching up. She teaches me that Heidi, God bless her soul, used to do this all by herself for 5 years. Slowly but very surely, it has grown into a great community effort, and here we are. And this is just one of the days of the week. The others involve gathering the same foods and distributing it to local shelters and youth homes. Again, there's more than enough NOT being sold. Totally blew my mind.
After picking it up, we arrange it carefully under umbrellas on a driveway. A committed group of us come, donate some money to help cover gas for the weekly pick-ups. You are to take what you need, and be thoughtful to not take everything for yourself. People respect this, love this. People pray for one another and family members over bags of bread, over ears of corn, over this very "inconvenient" and beautiful ministry.
As I ate my Vietnamese Spring Rolls with peanut sauce that day, (something I had picked up a few hours earlier), I thought how much this beats 7-eleven to a pulp, anyday. It is DECISIVELY NOT convenient. Took 4 hours. But I met Andrea, heard the history of the ministry, met John and Carlos and Emma and Peter and countless others who had bagged up the food at the stores before we came. I prayed for people along the way, and was prayed for myself.
And, I felt an internal "thank God" for ben adam and my wife's stretching and nudging. We are saving hundreds of dollars on groceries, eating so much better than ever before as we can opt for more organics and fair-traded products when we need to buy, and we are on a weekly family food adventure, that we get to share with many other families. Yogurt lasts a long time after it's expiration date. And a bag of Kale that got accidentally slashed open by an Exacto-knife on delivery just needs a wash. Tastes fine.
program is focused on stretching young adults to a simpler and more interconnected way of living. I've led this for five years here in Hollywood, and sheepishly recognize it took me awhile to embrace something like this. But, nonetheless, we are all works in progress, and thank God we're designed this way. It's so much better to work together for everyone's benefit. So much better, indeed, and way more delicious. - Matthew