Are you are a Meeting Planner or a Supplier concerned by the food wasted in our industry but feel there’s little you can do to change it? I’ve been a planner for almost 20 years and this is something that has always troubled me.
There are solutions at our fingertips and it starts with you asking for it!
This five part blog will walk you through some facts, provide tools to help start reducing food waste on the front end and connect you to solutions that already exist. We can end food waste, it is within our reach and it starts with each one of us taking action.
Guarantees are Not an Exact Science
We all know that food guarantees are based on best estimates. Meaning we either run the risk of too much food, or not having enough. As Planners if given the choice, we would choose the first scenario any day.
Kitchens prepare about 3-5% more food than the guarantee. This food is held back in the kitchen and only brought out if needed. Some Meeting Planners factor in this overage when providing guarantees, others do not.
When the attendance of an event is lower than anticipated, the amount of leftover food increases and what happens to that food is up to the culinary team to sort out. When Meeting Planners ask venues if they donate food, they are often told “yes, the baked goods” or “it goes to our kitchen for our staff” or “no, we can’t due to liability.” So what really happens?
An Inconvenient Truth?
Some food is getting donated through various programs, but you may be shocked to learn that in many cases it is not. The items held back in the kitchen (that 3-5% overage I mentioned earlier) is the ONLY food that can be donated.
A 2012 report by Food Bank Canada indicates that 900,000 Canadians are assisted by food banks each month of which 38% are children and youth. So why aren’t all venues donating everything possible?
Venues that choose not to donate food convey various reasons including fear of being sued for contamination or storage challenges (keeping prepared food at the right temperature).
We know that food gets discarded, but we don’t focus on it. The reason is partly because we have not been able to do much to change it and we rely on the culinary teams we work with to take the lead.
Food discarded doesn’t always make its way to the compost either. Managing the content of those compost bins takes time and effort. It is easy to accidentally throw a recyclable in the wrong container and when this happens, the items in the compost get contaminated and may have to be thrown out.
According to Dr. David Suzuki, “When people toss food, all the resources to grow, ship and produce it get chucked too, including massive volumes of water. In the US alone, the amount of water loss from food waste is like leaving the tap running and pouring 40 trillion liters of water down the drain.”
In my next blog post I will discuss the legalities of food donation and we’ll look at practical ways you can reduce food waste.