COVID-19 Response: Getting Food to the People Who Need It

Author: Convene Editors       

food donations

San Diego Convention Center GM Bobby Ramirez and Chef Sufi Karaien and staff members keep their social distance while preparing meals for the homeless.

James Beard Award–winning chef and restaurateur David Burke is usually leading his catering team in the creation of white-tablecloth experiences for corporate events. Today, a small Burke-led crew is instead making sandwiches and wraps by the hundreds for a different clientele: health-care workers. Sandwiches for this group are a must, he told Convene recently, because health-care workers “don’t have time to sit down.”

From feeding workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 battle, to ensuring food from canceled events is going to the hungry instead of to landfills, here’s a sampling of how people and organizations from all corners of the business events industry are pivoting to help amid the COVID-19 crisis.

  • The Centerplate team at the San Diego Convention Center, led by General Manager Bobby Ramirez, has prepared and served more than 140,000 meals for the homeless since early April through a collaborative San Diego regional effort dubbed Operation Shelter to Home. The Centerplate team has made use of some donated items, along with products from other Centerplate sites that could no longer use their inventory due to COVID-19-related closures.
  • In Los Angeles, some 4,000 pounds of food was donated and distributed by the Los Angeles Convention Center and Levy Restaurants, along with nonprofit Musically Fed, to the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (see photo). The effort assisted students in grades six-12 and their families.
covid-19 response

Donations from the Los Angeles Convention Center and Levy Restaurants have helped students. (Courtesy Los Angeles Convention Center)

  • Caesars Entertainment by late March had supplied more than 250,000 pounds of food — equivalent to nearly 208,000 meals — to food banks and charities across the country, including 116 pallets of perishable items delivered over two days to Three Square food bank in Las Vegas.
  • With support from owner Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority, the Greater Columbus Convention Center is getting food to some 200 team members and the Hilton Columbus Downtown has pre-cooked family meals available daily for curbside pick-up for furloughed workers.
  • Marina Bay Sands restaurants donated nearly 35,000 pounds (15,000 kilograms) of perishable food, including 3,600 eggs, to The Food Bank Singapore ahead of the resort’s one-month COVID-19-related closure (lasting until May 4), Channel News Asia reported.
  • MGM Resorts International has donated the equivalent of 400,000 meals across the United States.
  • Nashville’s Convention Center Authority gave $500,000 to the city’s COVID-19 Response Fund on behalf of the Music City Center to help support hospitality industry workers and others facing hardships including having trouble putting food on their tables.
covid-19 response

A Metro Toronto Convention Centre employee (right) a box of donated food to a representative of a local charity. (Courtesy MTCC)

  • Metro Toronto Convention Centre employees helped provide food from canceled or postponed events — totaling nearly 1,500 meals — to local shelters and charitable organizations.
  • The Pennsylvania Convention Center and food-service provider Aramark donated 800 pounds of perishable food in March to two local groups for distribution to individuals and families in need.
  • After the Miami City Ballet gala at The Miami Beach Convention Center was postponed, the center gave more than 1,000 pounds of food to Food Rescue US for local missions and shelters, local media reported.
  • The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas donated nearly 5,000 pounds of food in March benefitting The Stewpot, which assists Dallas residents experiencing homelessness and poverty; the City of Dallas Emergency Management Office; and first responders, convention center food-service provider Centerplate said.
  • Centerplate also said it donated more than 1,000 pounds of food to local organizations as a result of canceled events at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. And the convention center in March had an Employee Meal-Packing Event, providing pre-packaged meal kits — up to $400 worth of groceries — for full-time hourly employees.
covid-19 response

Employees at the Pasadena Convention Center hand out lunch kits at the convention center’s makeshift drive-thru. (Courtesy Centerplate)

  • The Pasadena Convention Center and its food partner, Centerplate, along with the Pasadena Civic Auditorium, worked together to prepare, deliver, and distribute more than 3,000 healthy meals to students of the Pasadena Unified School District at seven distribution sites.
  • The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas and its restaurant partners provided 10 pallets of food to a local food bank, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.
  • After event cancellations in March, the Raleigh Convention Center provided 800 banquet-ready meals to two local nonprofits and a church to support individuals who are homeless or food-insecure.
  • Through its partnership with Feeding America, American Airlines distributed more than 81,000 pounds of food — surplus food from inflight service and Admirals Club lounges — to food banks across the country.

RELATED: Event Venues Are Caring for the Ill and Helping the Helpers


What Events Professionals Need to Know About COVID-19

PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the pandemic and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared now and in the future.

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