No Doggy Bag for You: Digging into the Issue of Food Waste

Author: Michelle Russell       

Michelle Russell

Michelle Russell

For my Mother’s Day gift, my daughter booked a pasta- making class for the two of us at a nearby Sur La Table, the national culinary retailer. Our class of eight made twodishes: hand-cut pasta with roasted asparagus, truffle oil, and Parmesan, and hand-formed orecchiette with tomato sauce, spicy Italian sausage, and ricotta.

We had a blast rolling the pasta dough and preparing the meals, and we stuffed ourselves with the fruits of our labor more than we should have.

Yes, the pasta was fluffy and the sauces yummy, but it was especially hard to put our forks down because we felt guilty. We were dismayed to learn that we couldn’t take any leftovers home, they couldn’t be donated, and any remaining food would go to waste.

Our chef told us that the store couldn’t risk liability — say we accidentally left the pasta in our car for days, he said, and then decided to eat it, got sick, and sued them. I don’t know the ins and outs of liability insurance, but if restaurants can send you home with a doggy bag, shouldn’t cooking schools be able to as well?

Granted, there wasn’t much left behind after our class (and my enormous helping) and one cooking school’s lack of a food-waste policy is just a drop in the bucket when you consider the size of the problem in the U.S. According to ReFED, a nonprofit committed to reducing food waste, 63 million tons of food is wasted annually in the U.S., and more than $218 billion is spent on food that is never eaten. Meanwhile, 40 million Americans are food insecure.

ReFED just published its 2018 Annual Report, and from that we share the 27 solutions to food waste that the nonprofit has mapped out — and pinpoint the areas where the events industry is attempting to make greatest impact.

It’s not only in the U.S. where food waste is a challenge for the events industry. As just one indication of this problem’s global reach, last month at The Meetings Show in London, Lime Venue Portfolio — a collection of venues throughout the U.K. and Ireland — led an educational session exploring the issue, and has launched an initiative, #FORO (fear of running out), to help venues, caterers, event organizers, and delegates work together to reduce the occurrence of food waste.

Food is an important part of the event experience, although it doesn’t take center stage in July’s cover and CMP Series story about experiential marketing. But it’s in there. Attendees are going to be paying increasingly more attention to mindful menu planning as part of the “Bigger Than Oneself — Acting on a Meaningful Message” trend identified in “The Future of Meetings & Events” study by the PCMA Foundation and Marriott. We take a look at how that plays out in one destination in the story.

It’s part of your job to make sure that all attendees are well fed, so I totally get FORO. But sensible and sustainable food consumption should be a goal we all share, and ever.y stakeholder — including attendees — needs to be part of the conversation.

Michelle Russell is Editor in Chief of Convene.

Search for Meaning

The July issue’s There’s a Meeting for That is proof positive that you don’t have to dive too deep — even for shows like OzTek 2019 Advanced Diving Conference that seem on the surface to be mostly about recreation and drumming up sales — to see how events have a larger impact on society. The most popular session at the diving conference was presented by two members of the dive team who rescued junior soccer team players trapped in the Tham Luang cave in Thailand last year.