The Ultimate Quest: Finding a Place for Leftovers

Frani O’Toole


Thanksgiving is about food. Giving thanks, relaxing, and food. So, while we substitute our cafeteria fried rice, pasta, and quesadilla meals for leftover turkey and stuffing, one important question remains–what happens to the cafeteria food when we’re gone?

The day before break, I trekked over to the middle school to see if I couldn’t find the answer there, in the MS/US cafeteria office. I found Mr. Steven Obendorf, a Quest Food Services employee, who, among other things, oversees the cafeteria food when school is not in session. He said that, like Quest said in there slideshow earlier this year, their approach to leftover food is to put energy efficiency first: they’re “very conscious of the cost,” and are careful when they purchase food near vacation times. The week before a break, Mr. Obendorf said, Quest orders fewer perishables so as to have fewer leftovers. Mr. Obendorf said that many of the remaining items keep well over break: meats can be frozen, non-perishables can stay as they are. Certain items are a bit more problematic—green beans, for example, must be blanched before they are frozen. With all these measures, he stressed that, while Thanksgiving is known for its excess, Latin’s cafeteria approaches the holiday a lot more abstemiously than the rest of us.

For many, the most important aspect of Thanksgiving is community service, and the meals at pantries and shelters. “We didn’t donate food over Thanksgiving—there’s some logistical issues with donating food then,” Mr. Obendorf explained, “because during holiday seasons they tend to have an overabundance, so it’s more important to donate in an off-season.” He said that sometimes during off-seasons Latin donates food to Inspiration Corporation. Mr. Obendorf is a former employee of Inspiration Corporation, a company that, on its website, describes itself as “here to catch the people that are falling through the holes of the safety net […] we provide housing and supportive services. We also provide foodservice training, employment services, and work experience.” After the homecoming weekend festivities, Mr. Obendorf said that Latin donated over 200 leftover sub sandwiches to IC.  He stresses that it’s not often, though, that Latin can donate food, as it’s not enough that they have no use for it.

Now that we know how carefully Mr. Obendorf and Quest approach their meals and food services, do we need to re-evaluate our own choices? Many of us give thanks every weekday at 11:15 or 12:05 for Latin’s cafeteria, but who do we forget to thank? Are we always appreciative of people like Mr. Obendorf for being so cognizant of energy and cost efficiency?  Do we remember to donate our time and goods to shelters off-season? Like Latin’s cafeteria managers, it’s important that we remember that gratitude and giving back to the community aren’t just for Thanksgiving—they’re the kind of spirit that we should continue year-round.]]>