Friday, October 17, 2008

NYC buffet/deli food

Evelyn commented yesterday about the abundance of salad and hot buffet places in midtown New York and wondered what happens to the left over food. I wish I had a photo but probably could not do justice to these places which exist most abundantly in the midtown and also in the downtown legal and financial center. The buffets and salad bars in other cities and malls across the country are a sad hint of the variety and ingenuity of these places. They exist specifically for the office workers. Very few are to be found in purely residential areas -- there one may find much prepared food but in most cases it's the sandwich variety or tossed salads and soups.

Since I had been writing about poverty and hunger, Evelyn quite rightly wonders what happens to the left overs. I strongly suspect they're mostly put in the garbage, perhaps a fair amount goes home with the cooks who are mostly immigrant workers. But I think the operators of these places have a fairly good handle on what sells and how much to make. There have been times when I stopped late in the afternoon and found the choices very skimpy and getting dried out.

New York does have a wonderful organization called City Harvest that gathers food from bakeries and all sorts of restaurants and distributes it to soup kitchens and other organizations that feed people, like the City Meals on Wheels which takes meals to shut-ins. I strongly suspect with the economic problems we're all beginning to be aware of, these organizations will be even more diligent -- and in need of volunteers and donations. I know that the Whole Foods stores use their own produce that is looking a little wilted and their meats that did not sell the day they were cut, to make the food that is sold both in their hot foods sections and in the take home prepared food sections.

Surely there is a lot of waste, but perhaps not as much as a casual observer might think. I know too of sandwich places that sell the day's foods half price after 5:00 and a local bakery/cafe sells its breads half price after 7:00. I think many people have an awareness of the need and concern for those who are needy.

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