Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Masking waste, even by a good deed

Masking waste, even by a good deed


Had a long talk with a neighbor last night who is very active in a food pantry at his church.  They feed over 250 families a month and have done so for nearly 20 years.  His role is in finding and transporting food to the pantry.  Many local stores donate old food and my neighbor takes it to the pantry.  He described one store's story to me.  


"Yeah, it was really a shame when that store got their logistics act together last year."


Oh really?


"Yes.  Before the change, I could go there on Saturday morning and get enough day-old bakery goods to fill the trunk, back seat and passenger seat of my car!  But now, boy, they are running better and I'm lucky to get a couple dozen donuts each week."   He just shook his head.


So what happened?


"Oh, they just figured out what was selling in the store and quit guessing.  So now they have stuff that the paying customers want.  A lot less is left over for us."


My waste-free-system side went clashing into my do-right-in-the-community side at his description.  Clearly, the company made some effective changes in predicting and supplying their bakery shelves.  Did the contributions to the local charity mask this supply chain problem for them?  Did they ignore other problems under the banner of "helping the community"?  I have no idea. 


Yet it also raises the issue that we not mask a system problem by calling it something that it isn't.  And, similarly, we not mask a community responsibility by just letting waste flow that way. 


How much better to have a good supply system and a good way to contribute back to local communities.  Both clearly called what they are. 


I hope there is not a "Corporate Scrooge" somewhere now relishing the fact that they are not sending food to help local poor.  But, even more, I hope they are not masking either their ability to contribute or their ability to supply their stores. 


Inventory masks problems in many ways.  This is a new one to me.


I hope this is helpful. And go make a contribution, in money or in kind, to a local food pantry today.  You'll be better for it and so will they. 


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