Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Rice, Rice, Baby

Friday is generally informal team lunch day here at the office, and the chosen venue is Chinese food at least half the time.

Now, its a fact of modern food economics that at your average restaurant much of the cost of your bill springs from the cost of renting and staffing the restaurant rather than actually obtaining the food. Modern agriculture provides our country with such a ridiculous surplus of food that one of the easy ways for an establishment to make people feel better about paying $7-9 for a lunch entree (which is necessary in order to pay for the cooks, waitresses, busboys and square footage of the restaurant) is simply to provide 2-3x the amount of food that one person could possibly need. One lunch portion at any of the local Asian eateries amounts to more food than many people who actually live in rural Asia get in a day.

The solution that most of my coworkers gravitate towards is to leave aside the bowl of rice that comes with every mean, and which one is expected to mix with one's stir fry. Now, given the general disrepute of starch among the sedentary class these days, I understand the reasoning behind this, but wasting rice has always struck me as a particularly offensive form of excess since so many of the poorest in this world live almost exclusively off rice. It seems rather let-them-eat-cake-ish to leave one's rice to be thrown away by the busboy.

So here's my thought: Some conscientious eatery out to sprinkle around "give your rice away" placards on all their tables. Provide an explicit option to order your meal without rice (the price would be the same) and for each order without rice, donate $0.25 or $0.50 to some charity such as Food For the Poor which (at third world prices) can probably turn that in to 1-5lbs of rice for some poor family somewhere. Over by the door they could post a tally of the number of pounds of rice donated each month, which would probably amount to enough to feed a medium-sized village.

That place would certainly have my business, and my rice.


Literacy-chic said...

And yet reminding people of world poverty while they're indulging in an overpriced meal just doesn't seem like it would be marketable. Admirable, yes. Marketable, no! Guilt can be an appetite suppressant. It would also play better with some populations than others.

CMinor said...

Now mind, if you don't eat some of that rice, you're hungry again an hour later. We've found Chinese restaurants are usually pretty easygoing about platesharing, though. Then you can contribute the cost of the extra meal to the charity of your choice!

southerncanuck said...

Good idea. Those places would definitely have my business. We had the same experience tonight when eating mexican. We ordered take out instead of eating in. They sent me home with about 30 warm tortillas and a bag of chips (that would feed about 10 people) along with our 2 dinners (the kids ate pizza). Way too much.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the idea and the plan in general, but I suspect that most resturant owners wouldn't have the time/inclination to follow through with it. That's a pretty hard business to keep up in (The local Asian place by our house has changed hands 3 times in as many years). Since most of these places seems to take your order and even give recipts hand-written, tallying up the totals at the end of the month would be a pain.

It might be workable for a charity to set it up though. For example, print some business cards and leave them on each table. The cards would explain the program and ask people to donate their unneeded food instead of wasting it. When you order your food without rice, the server would "validate" your card with their initials. On your way out, you would drop the card into a clear container.

Periodically, the charity would come by, collect the cards, tally them up, and get the money from the resturaunt. The resturaunt would get a certificate stating that they have fed X people for a day so far, etc.

Finally, I would try to get a website put together listing all businesses that participate, calling out particularlly helpful businesses. Then see if you can get food review websites online to add their status to their resturaunt review pages.

Obviously it could work for almost any resturaunt. Some simple guideline of "for each complimentary item (i.e. Chips & Salsa, Bread at Italian eateries, etc.) or side dish included with your meal that you decline, $0.25 will be donated to a charity to feed those in need around the world."