Whole Fools

Published on March 21st, 2009

Gothamist has an article up about a man who was recently fired from Whole Foods for eating a sandwich that was intended for the trash. Many branches of Whole Foods compact their trash, and the compactors are inside their loading bays. I.e., they actively guard their trash and clearly want to make it dangerous to eat from it.

What’s interesting about this case is their argument that¬†Ralph Reese, the employee they fired, was attempting to steal the sandwich. As you can read on our site, items thrown in the trash are considered a part of the commons. The issue has been decided upon by the Supreme Court. Persons have no reasonable expectation their trash won’t be looked through or taken before the garbage collectors ¬†haul it to the landfill. And the sandwich had already been thrown away. It became fair game as soon as that decision was made.

Whole Foods is basically making the argument that maintaining their authoritarian corporate culture and increasing the ranks of the unemployed  is more important to them than either reducing the devastating effects of food waste or feeding the hungry.



10 Responses to “Whole Fools”

  1. B. Rogers Says:

    I understand that compacting the trash makes it smaller and easier to haul away, HOWEVER, WHOLEFOODS should be sending leftovers to the homeless shelters, local churches, etc. With all the unemployed, seniors on strict incomes, ALL establishments should look at everything they are throwing away and re-gift it, especially food…shen so many in this country are going to bed hungry or must choose, medicine or food..They need to do the RIGHT THING…

  2. admin Says:

    Absolutely. But I think from the tone of their position on this issue it’s clear that they’re strongly opposed to doing the right thing. So keep diving their trash, everybody!

  3. Lucy Says:

    This is totally normal at Starbucks stores, where I used to be employed…

  4. robin Says:

    Unfortunately, when corpo america began trying to protect itself from the filing feeding frenzy (see “sue me sue you blues” by george harrison), this was how corpo america decided to go. keep the ‘trash’ away, and they won’t sue.

  5. andres Says:

    muchas gracias , yo soy de colombia me gusta mucho su plan, es una inspiracion, mas que aqui en mi pais ahy mucha desigualdad entre ricos y pobres, quisiera saber como puedo participar. enhorabuena.

  6. nikhil Says:

    Hey this was doubtlessly one of the best posts I’ve had the chance to come across on the subject so far. I do not know where you learn all your info but keep it coming! I am gunna send a few people on over to read this. Awesome, simply fantastic. I am have just started getting into writing articles myself, nothing remotely close to your writing skills (lol) but I’d love for you to check out my work in progress someday! here

  7. tonya Says:

    It is my understanding that the reason they don’t allow employees to eat food they throw away is because they believe that it will encourage enployees to throw away food that shouldn’t be thrown away, just so they can eat it. Plus, they can’t GIVE away food to the homeless because they can get sued. Sad, but true.

  8. Omar Says:

    I started dumpster diving before freegan was a word. Awesome finds sometimes; a virtual cornucopia of goodies that I put to good use instead of taking up space in the landfill. Well… in the old days anyway. Now I guess many store managers take exception to someone re-purposing their trash; open bins are disappearing in favor of enclosed compactors, but even before that, local stores started vandalizing their trash, soaking completely salvageable foods with soap. Imagine- actually taking the time, energy, and soap to vandalize your own garbage because… well, because why? Because you think you’re losing sales? Ha- nope. I wasn’t gonna buy that stuff in the first place. Because you want to prevent employees from putting good merchandise into the trash then retrieving it later? Well… could be but I doubt it. I think it’s just plain irrational and mean.

  9. Megan Says:

    In response to what Tonya said: How Exactly can they get sued for giving to the homeless?? I’ve been giving food for YEARS along w/ the rest of my family and have NEVER been sued. Not only that, but what they are doing IS extremely wasteful. If they were actually composting the food it would make more since,but since they obviously are not doing that they should consider giving food (if safe) to the homeless. Whole Foods is a big enough corporation that they should consider actually feeding their customers. I have been a chef for years and each place I EVER worked they always fed us. Hell, even the staff (waiters/waitresses/hostesses) got fed most of the time. It makes everyone feel like they are part of a family and taken care of. If a family owned restaurant can do it.. so can Whole Foods. Firing that man for such is shameful.

  10. yogini Says:


    Sadly, what Tonya says is true folks! 🙁

    I am in California and our county food bank here makes you SIGN A LEGAL AGREEMENT if you are a business and want to donate food to them.

    I don’t know if they make individuals do this but for even small family owned companies YOU CERTAINLY DO.

    My small business had some unopened shelf food items which had just “expired” but which the manufacturer assured us were good ONE YEAR past the expiration date (they had never been opened, either). I tested them myself and they were good.

    I wanted to donate these to the food bank and my boss said ok. I called the food bank and they told me we’d need to sign a legal document which could hold us liable if someone got sick or whatever.

    I was worried that my boss wouldn’t sign it and I would have to find another way to get these powders to people who needed them…luckily he is a good person and he signed it…but how many small business owners would take that risk?

    This wasn’t because these were recently expired either, it’s standard operating procedure to protect the food bank. SAD SAD SAD but true.

    Whole Foods has a lot of money and since they are publicly held company now I think they have some legal duty I think to try to protect themselves from lawsuits on behalf of their shareholders.

    A small family business who doesn’t really own anything or a small restaurant is not a hot target for a lawsuit. Attorney’s flee when there is no money or property involved.

    The way to fix this Whole Foods thing is to create an intermediary to whole foods/safeway, etc. that will approach them about collecting and redistributing their food waste to good causes. That way YOUR group assumes the legal risk and you can get them to do it by telling them how much you can save them on trash expenses. Trash collection gets more expensive every year as landfills FILL.

    I think this is a great business idea for someone who wants a to help.

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