A letter to my work amidst the Tsunami of December 2004

30 December 2004

Dear Sir/Madam,

As you read this letter, countless more drowned, crushed and starved bodies are being discovered across the worst-hit parts of Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Thailand as a result of the Boxing Day earthquake tsunami. The total death toll is predicted to rise to at least 120,000 and more than a million people will be without shelter and food.

I am a sixth form student who has a part-time job at my local Safeway/Morrisons store, and every single day, vast amounts of bread and other goods are thrown away in a skip, which are collected by bin men and eventually burnt.

We are a small Safeway Compact store, but today (December 30th) we threw away five large bags full of bread and also two six foot high stacks of it, plus three bags full of yoghurts, drinks and snack foods. I understand that the food is thrown away because it has reached its expiry date and is deemed no longer fit to eat, but surely it is common knowledge that food is still perfectly safe at least for a few days after its expiry date.

This systematic destroying of perfectly decent food makes me so frustrated as it shows blatant ignorance and inconsideration towards people in awful situations, not just in the places affected by the earthquake tsunami, but also in Ethiopia and other parts of Africa where starvation has become a way of life. It makes absolutely no sense to be burning food, which costs nothing, accumulates nothing and achieves nothing, when distributing food to the starving also costs nothing, accumulates nothing BUT achieves the saving of lives on a mass scale whilst promoting the good will of British business and retail.

I talked to a Human Resources assistant at my store today, and he told me that the food has to be burnt, because if it is distributed, eaten and causes illness, the store would be in trouble. Surely starving people would appreciate countless loaves of bread and other goods, regardless of their expiry dates, and would rather have their lives saved and have a stomach bug than starve to death.

I think that if this part of store management is reformed as soon as possible, thousands upon thousands of lives would be saved in the aforementioned nations who have, in a single day, become third world countries. I also think it would promote the Safeway/Morrisons public image if that is the sort of advantage you are interested in. A lot of the staff at my store feel the same way.

The terrible events of the past few days have inspired me to write this letter. One of my friends got caught up in the tsunami in Sri Lanka, but she luckily survived where so many others did not.

I sincerely hope this proposal is considered and adopted as soon as possible. I do not think there can be any possible reason to justify this process when there is so much need in the world at this time. Thank you.

Yours faithfully,
Steve Clarkson