Prepared but not served. How much food goes to waste in our industry pertaining to that phrase? When we plan our event meals, there is always the extra 3-5% that is held back in the kitchen, waiting for that occurrence of more people showing up than expected. What becomes of that prepared but not served food?
If you ask many people on both sides of our industry, they will say that food needs to be thrown away as it is a legal liability to donate it. However, that is incorrect. In 1996, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act
was passed through both houses of Congress and signed by President Clinton. This national law protects all donors, stating that except in cases of gross negligence (cases where the donator knew that the food was likely harmful to the health and well-being of another person), all people and organizations are protected against liability. In essence, meeting planners and hotels are not liable if they choose to donate the food that is prepared but not served.
So with all the waste in our industry, why is this misconception so prevalent? To many, it’s because it’s the easy way out. It’s a good excuse for not wanting to take the extra time and effort (and perhaps a few dollars for some pans for the food) to help less fortunate Americans. But not donating the food is wrong on so many levels. 1 in 6 people in America face hunger. In 2014, 48.1 million Americans lived in food insecure households (U.S. Census Bureau). Why aren’t we doing our share?
For over 25 years, Rock and Wrap It Up! has helped lead the fight against hunger. A non-profit that takes no money from donors or those receiving the food, they are led by Syd Mandelbaum, awardee of a 1998 Point of Light award from the White House for his anti-poverty work. Rock and Wrap It Up! helps organizations, including our industry, in the efforts to donate food. They connect the hotel/facility with places that will pick up the food and serve it to those in need. They vet the organizations that are picking up the food to ensure that they are following proper procedures in safely handling and transporting the food. And they don’t charge anything for this service. Too good to be true? Nope…completely true…and you can use them…today!
It really doesn’t matter if you work with Rock and Wrap It Up or any organization. What matters is that the prepared but not served food doesn’t end up in landfill, but ends up in the stomachs of those hungering for their next meal. And wouldn’t that be the perfect close to your next conference or event?
[For 15 years, the author has donated his time and efforts for Rock and Wrap It Up!, helping create their Whole Earth Calculator. His current pro-bono efforts for them include being the VP of Digital Media and serving on their board of directors.]