Trash Liberated: Co-op Shut Down
By Peter Dybdahl

The action was over almost before it started: ResLife and the Environmental Health Division for Lorain County, responding to rumors that Harkness was serving food out of dumpsters, closed down the co-op for six hours until the source of all the food in the kitchen could be verified.
“No food was there that shouldn’t have been,” OSCA president and OC senior Rachel Dwarzski said. She summated, “It was interesting.”
Rachel David, a sophomore and member of Harkness Co-op still felt the inspection was violating. “This was part of our home,” David said.
While “dumpster-diving” is often considered a marginalized practice of the destitute, for some, including David, it is a political issue. According to David, the Garbage Liberation Front, or GLF, is an “internationally collective consciousness” that has issues with wasteful consumption.
The specifics of the Harkness “dumpster-diving” incidents themselves are unclear: the targeted dumpsters, the trespassers or the spoils taken. Nonetheless, the allegations have prompted campus-wide eye rolling.
The events leading up to the surprise Harkness investigation are vague. So it seems fitting, perhaps, that the story began with a rumor.
In September, ResLife received a report that Harkness dining co-op had been serving food retrieved from a dumpster. ResLife Director Kim LaFond said they chose not to pursue the matter, and assumed the Oberlin Student Co-operative Association (OSCA) would address the issue internally.
The weekend of Oct. 4, ResLife received another report that members of Harkness had served food from a dumpster. Aggravating the concern for ResLife, the October issue of the satirical Oberlin newspaper The Skinny published an article that centered on the Harkness “dumpster-diving” rumors.
According to Kim LaFond, The Skinny article was not judged to be a factual document, but was sufficient evidence for ResLife to investigate the co-op for possible health violations. “What concerned us was that [The Skinny article] put it in the public arena,” LaFond said.
Around this time, the Environmental Health Division for Lorain County, responsible for the inspection of OSCA’s food services, was notified. The Environmental Health Division deflected the issue back to the College, urging a quick resolution to any infractions.
Responding to pressures from the College, the week of Oct. 7, Harkness members issued a resolution stating co-op members would not eat or serve food that had been discarded. Dwarzski said, “They wrote up a declaration saying they would not tolerate it in their kitchens.” Harkness sent copies to ResLife and the Environmental Health Division.
On Friday, Oct. 11, LaFond and other members of ResLife met with OSCA’s General Management Team, a group that ensures smooth co-op functioning. ResLife closed Harkness until they could confirm that all of the co-op’s food had been purchased from a reputable source. The food matched the receipts, and the co-op re-opened about six hours later.
The co-op was closed through Friday’s dinner, but ResLife allowed Harkness diners to eat dinner in the Central Dining Service. Other co-ops extended a similar offer.
“We thought we were being very fair,” LaFond said, “very reasonable.”
Like any good rumor, the specifics of the “dumpster-diving” are hazy and allow for speculation. The most definitive word on the issue, ultimately comes from Dorothy Kloos, Lorain’s Environmental Health Sanitarian, who inspects Harkness: “Obviously, food that is put in a dumpster has been put there for a reason.” She added, “Food that has not been handled with care and vigilance shall not be served to the public.”

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