While thousands of pieces of toast were getting swept up by the famed zamboni this Saturday at Franklin Field, they were also being spread with scrutiny.
Last week, College senior Pranav Merchant published an opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer criticizing the traditional Toast Toss that takes place after the third quarter at home football games.
Merchant said he saw the reitual as food and money going to waste, and said he’s encountered others with the same sentiment. However, many in the Penn community are adamant about preserving the tradition.
But, he said, they do not “change the fact that there’s a lot of food” being thrown away.
In his article, he wrote that the practice is “a cavalier and startling display,” especially because Penn is so close to a neighborhood with many people living in poverty.
“I’m not opposed to tradition,” he said, adding that there is a “better way” to continue it.
While he said that the tradition could be modified to create less waste, he believes that it might end if it becomes more controversial.
According to PennAthletics.com, the Toast Toss has occurred since the mid-1970s, around the same time alcohol was banned from the stadium.
Before the ban, students used to drink a toast while singing “Drink a Highball.” In the ’70s, Quakers fans began ironically flinging toasted bread toward the field instead of raising their glasses as they chanted “here’s a toast to dear old Penn.”
Jen Rizzi, a Facilities and Real Estate Services spokeswoman, said in an e-mail that the toast typically takes around an hour and a half to clean up using the “toast zamboni,” which is also used in other capacities around campus.
It is a two-part process, with an initial clean-up after the game and another the next morning. The FRES and urban park manager estimated to Rizzi that 65-70 pounds of bread were collected after Saturday’s home opener.
Greer Cheeseman, Penn alumnus and director of the Penn Band, was among the first students to participate. Cheeseman said that he and his friends began throwing toast after seeing an interactive screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, where moviegoers hurled bread at the screen when a character proposed a toast.
He said that the toss “started out as an innocent, fun tradition” and that he would “hate to see it die.”
He added that he had seen many groups selling toast as a fundraiser for hunger-related charities in the past, and that the band tries to buy day-old bread to reduce wastefulness.
Elise M. Betz, executive director of Alumni Relations, said that her office supports the tradition. She added that students give a “tremendous” amount of time to the community of West Philadelphia, and that traditions that are safe and appropriate are encouraged at Penn.
Prior to the publication of Merchant’s editorial, Penn Athletics Marketing Manager Joshua Craggs had e-mailed the senior about multiple initiatives “to mitigate the impact of the Toast Toss.”
These include a canned food drive at a home football game, a collection jar atop the toaster for fans to “donate money to a food bank for their toast” and composting the bread along with dining-hall compost at the Wilmington Organic Recycling Center in Delaware.
Merchant’s editorial also criticized the amount of money that Penn spends on the act.
However, Athletic Communications Director Mike Mahoney said in an e-mail, “I can confidently say that the money we donate to [hunger-related charities] greatly exceeds the amount that we spend each season on the Toast Toss.”
“I think it’s a great tradition,” said Penn cheerleader and College junior Sarah Huepenbecker.
“It is kind of scary to see all that toast coming at us at once,” she added.
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