Liberated: Co-op Shut Down
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,”
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
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”
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,”
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
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
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.”