Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

March 21 2016

How One Leading Convention Center Is Battling Food Waste

Jeanna Hofmeister

Nationally, hunger affects more than 50 million people, and more than 30 percent of them are children.  In the Bay Area, nearly 27 percent of kids are considered “food insecure.” When Silicon Valley teen, Kiran Sridhar, witnessed hunger first-hand, he developed a web and mobile app to reduce waste and deliver usable food and prepared meals to the area’s most needy.  His brainchild, Waste No Food, has blossomed into a non-profit organization that, to date, in partnership with Hunger at Home, has delivered more than a 1.6 million meals and San Jose’s Convention Center helps to fuel the food pipeline.

Around the same time “Waste No Food” was launched, Ewell Sterner, Team San Jose’s (TSJ) General Manager, identified an opportunity through the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act to donate consumable food safely to local non-profit organizations. Hunger at Home an established non-profit 501 (c) (3) organization partnered with several big-name hospitality partners from the Hilton, Marriott, Fairmont and DoubleTree hotels, to join Hunger at Home to donate food and surplus items to meet the need. Some of the biggest venues in the area jumped onboard too, including Levi’s Stadium, the SAP Center and Shoreline Amphitheater as food donors.

Team San Jose’s Hunger at Home initiative aligned perfectly with the mission of Waste No Food…and there’s been no looking back.  Streamlining distribution between donors and food recipients means convention center leftovers land on local tables rather than in the dumpster.  And what’s good for the people of San Jose is also proving healthier for the planet.  The quantity of food donations so far has resulted in a reduction of 7,590 pounds of CO2 emissions.

Broadening The Impact

Virtually every green event checklist includes a call to curb food waste. Hunger at Home takes the green meetings concept to a whole new level, and the program continues to evolve. Partners donate soaps and toiletries to local charities as well. That means funds from local organizations that were once used for food, can now be applied to other urgent community services and organizational needs. 

Empowering San Jose’s community in need has inspired a new level of camaraderie between TSJ’s staff and the cause at hand. According to CEO, Karolyn Kirchgesler, employee-to-employee interactions and, in-turn, respect and friendships have increased as many TSJ team members volunteer their free time to support the effort.

“When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, it’s all consuming,” said Sridhar in a recent TED Partners video. “We see so much untapped potential that can be solved through feeding people. I believe there’s no greater social equalizer.” Now a student at Stanford University, Sridhar continues to serve as Executive Director for Waste No Food.

Annually, about one third of the food produced world-wide, or some 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted along the supply chains, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. To find out how to diminish food waste from your conventions and learn more about San Jose’s Hunger at Home program, contact Kyle Schatzel, Public Relations Specialist at Team San Jose at kschatzela@sanjose.org or 408.792.4119. Check out this database of opportunities to give back in your host city.

Brought to you by Team San Jose


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