Ready To Donate: Pret A Manger’s Food Donation Program

While in New York, I noticed a sign within the UK sandwich and coffee chain Pret A Manger donates its leftover food at the end of the day to those less fortunate at the end of the day. What a great idea!



A pie chart showing food waste by type of food from the article, “Total and per capita value of food loss in the United States.”


According to a recent study, up to 40% of the food produced in the US is wasted each year; a 2012 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) report cites the USDA’s statistic that 19% of the total US retail-level food supply was lost in 2008. Imagine what could be done with this 86 billion pounds of prepared food – quite a lot, when you think about it.


  • What kind of incentives could be offered to create a habit of social consciousness where other restaurants follow suit instead of having Pret A Manger as one outstanding example?
  • What – since there would be some – risks involved?
  • Who would sponsor or support such an effort to offer incentives to restaurants – or would this defeat in creating a infrastructure to sponsor these types of efforts?


Pret A Manger seems to have a different philosophy about how they treat their customers and how they motivate employees – as this 2011 New York Times article describes.  More than selling sandwiches, Pret A Manger seems to be disseminating a different message than most fast food or coffee chains: they have heart and, since they can put in the extra effort to give back to lessen waste while helping others, why not?


But is it in their corporate culture, or do they do it because of the positive reverberations back to their company? It seems that the positive press, highly motivating atmosphere and generous values has a way of paying back much more than the initial effort Pret A Manger invested. Whatever the motivation, their food donation benefits the company and the common good. Pret A Manger should be applauded in their efforts which show that charity and generosity do pay off.


Now, how could social marketing use this example to influence other for-profit restaurants to follow suit?

Using A Cell Phone Doesn’t Mean You’re Communicating

Hearing someone scream in agony, running down the platform as the train pulled away, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sympathy. I could tell from the way he cried out that he wasn’t hurt, but some other minor disaster had occurred. Luggage had been put on the train while this guy wandered off the train and onto the platform, surely  certain that the 3 seconds he stepped off the train wouldn’t be the time that it took for the train to depart. But it was, and depart the train did.


I was coming home from the San Francisco airport, which connects to the local train affectionately known by its acronym, Bart. Exiting from the airport and down to the entrance to the train’s platform, I could see a train sitting at the platform across the turnstile which I had not yet passed. I jogged to try to catch it in time , knowing that I would need to wait 15 minutes for the next one if I didn’t jump on this one. My slight jog wasn’t fast enough, and the train pulled away with a slight whoosh as I reached the turnstile. I sighed in disappointment, but selfishly considered myself lucky when I experienced secondhand the agony of the man who left his luggage on the train car.

Riders on the Bay Area Rapid Transit, a commuter train in the San Francisco area.

Weary passengers on the commuter train.


It was one of those moments where I felt compelled to break through the awkwardness of initiating conversation with a stranger – I wanted to tell him I could help, that it would be okay, that station staff announced over the PA system that he could come to the teller’s booth at the front and they would try to work with him.


As soon as he stopped his futile chase of the train, however, he immediately called his friend on his cell phone,  barely stopping to breathe, ranting about his frustrating experience, instructing his friend – supposedly who he was soon to meet – that he had missed the train and accidentally abandoned his bag on it.


A tug of obligation and sympathy for this stranger made me want to try to interject, but I wasn’t given the choice. He continued on the phone for the next 15 minutes, pacing around the angrily around the platform, making him unapproachable, though I followed him from a distance, looking for an opportunity to inject myself.

Within a quick quarter of an hour, the next train pulled up to the station, and – with my own commitments and friends to meet. I got on it, with my things, and rode home.


Technology (the cell phone) served to connect with stranger with his friend, while also allowing him to disengage from his immediate situation, rendering him unaware and closed to any local help that could have been offered to him, such as a passerby like himself who wanted to offer advice.


Although we have wireless internet, fancy smartphones, GPS, social media and abundant technology that has delivered alluring yet incomplete promises of solving all of life’s problems, situations like these remind me that figuring out and using technology is half the battle. Knowing how to use a cell phone doesn’t mean that you can communicate – meaning that relationships and the importance of teaching rhetoric, critical thinking and relationship building is as relevant as it always has been.

Embracing Gattaca: Why I’ve Decided To Get My DNA Genotyped

Gattaca, the 1997 science fiction film based in the “not-too-distant future” featuring Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman was one of my favorite films ever since I had seen it days before summer vacation in my high school biology class.


Movie poster for Gattaca, created to generate buzz about the movie.


The film shows viewers a fictional future in which babies’ genes can be chosen before birth for parents with the means to pay for it. Vincent Freeman is the protagonist of the story. He’s one of the unlucky ones to have had parents who didn’t want to consult their local geneticist to cherry pick his features and characters. Vincent is born into the world with suffering from myopia, potential heart troubles and other characteristics that classified him as a lower class human being in comparison to the privileged humans whose features were carefully selected and flaws removed.


“I belonged to a new underclass, no longer determined by social status or the color of your skin. No, we now have discrimination down to a science,” explains Vincent.


When 23andme came out with its DNA genotyping services in 2007, I was wary and slightly critical. With the cautionary tale of dystopia as created in Gattaca still part of mind – plus a prohibitively hefty subscription-based fee of $299 per period, getting my DNA genotyped by 23andme, the privately owned biotechnology company owned in part by Google’s Sergey Brin’s wife didn’t seem like a great idea. December’s price drop to an apparently permanent level of $99 prompted me to reconsider and perform a bit of research.


After doing some research, I’m convinced that I can and should get my DNA genotyped with for the following reasons:


Privacy is maintained. 23andme has taken measures to make sure order information and genetic information are kept separate.


Legislation in place. 2008’s Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) of 2008 makes it illegal for Americans to discriminate based on genetic information within healthcare and employment – which will need to be further tested as time goes on, but the preventative legislation in place ensures that some kind of guardrails are in place against genetic discrimination.


Benefit the greater good. As this Forbes article mentions, the secrets of human genetic DNA will be based on the number of people who participate. More participants in 23andme’s system will allow for crowdsourced genetic information, meaning the more people participate, the more meaningful the rest of the individuals with DNA genotyped by 23andme will be.


With an easy sample collection procedure, the next step I will need to take is sending the company a test tube full of saliva.


Far from worrying about having my future spoiled for me or genetic discrimination, I see genotyping as an opportunity to strategize about what kind of life choices I can modify in order to maintain optimal health. Additionally, my view is that 23andme can provide insights that could arise from the DNA genotyping (as 23andme provides probabilities and likelihood metrics at the individual level for over 240 health conditions and traits). These insights would allow me to take precautions and be cognizant of future pitfalls that I might otherwise be unaware of as an individual who sometimes takes her health for granted given a relatively disease and accident-free past.


Getting my DNA genotyped is about being an empowered healthcare consumer, getting a step closer to better managing my own health and healthcare records.

All-Access Electronic Healthcare Records? Still A Ways To Go

As I filled out four long pages of medical history forms while at a new doctor for the second time in two weeks, it dawned on me that I should be keeping track of my own health care information. Of course – why had I thought that I should rely on a fax from one doctor’s office to the next when I could take the matter into my own hands?

Fax machine

I bought an all-in-one printer-scanner-fax machine but have still never used the fax machine… Yet doctors offices and hospitals use these every day!


With Google Docs and the kind of record keeping that I engage in on a regular basis for work and volunteer efforts, why was I not already doing this with my healthcare records?


It hadn’t occurred to me until recently, when a few trips to new doctors forced me to rack my brain multiple times and scribble down half-guessed answers to my own health history.  These recent experiences were reminders that, no, transferring healthcare information still is largely the burden of the patient – if you, as a patient, want to make sure your records are complete, accurate and timely.


As someone who regularly checks on my bank statements just to make sure all charges are legit and no fraudulent activity is going on with my credit cards, why wouldn’t (shouldn’t) I be just as careful and keeping tracking of my health history?

We are in an age of technology and, though personal healthcare records have started to become more prevalent, half the battle is being proactive and diligent with your electronic healthcare records. As a reminder, the fax machine is not dead yet!

This is a prelude to my review of Dr. Eric Topol’s The Creative Destruction of Medicine, which I just started reading today. I’m excited to hear Dr. Topol’s thoughts about the convergence of technology and medicine.

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