Americans waste enough food to fill a 90,000-seat stadium every day. he value of food wasted in the U.S. each year has been estimated at between $162–$218 billion. (Painting by Dennis Wojtkiewicz)
One of the biggest takeaways from the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) research into ending food waste in commercial kitchens — discussed in Convene’s November cover story, “Can Events Help Solve the Global Food Crisis?” — was the need to clearly better communicate with meeting planners about the multiple ways in which they could use their role to reduce food waste, said WWF’s Monica McBride.
Here are areas to address.
Ask hotels, conference centers, and caterers (event managers) to separate and measure food waste, if possible, including what’s recoverable, reusable, or inedible from prep to post-service. Request a waste report that you can use to inform future planning. (See “Tech Solutions” below.)
Prevent When Possible
Ask hotel event sales staff for low-waste menu options and full-product utilization recipes. When possible, opt for plated meals rather than buffet, as a waste-avoidance option. Provide attendee data earlier and more frequently and explore ways to understand your event’s “eater profiles.”
Reexamine portion sizing and overset contract terms, as many contracts often include a built-in 3-percent overage that often leads to wasted food.
Donate Edible Surplus Food
Ask hotel event sales staff if they have active food- recovery programs with community partners. If your venue is not actively donating surplus food, ask to support a pilot program with recommended partners. Put food recovery plans into contract terms. Encourage awareness of the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. (See “Yes, You Can Donate Food” below.)
Divert Inedible Waste
Ask hotel event sales staff to divert unavoidable food waste (i.e., plate waste and food that has become no longer food safe) away from landfills to local composting or anaerobic digestion facilities, for example. Propose secondary donation options such as animal feed for scraps inedible for people.
Ask hotel event sales staff if they have a training program for food-waste education and practices for staff. Ask for signage on the buffet to encourage conscious consumption in line with the property’s food philosophy. Start an awareness campaign within your own organization to create a prevention culture.
Barbara Palmer is Convene‘s deputy editor.
These stories are part of Convene’s CMP Series, which enables readers to earn one hour of CE credit toward CMP certification from the Events Industry Council. Find the main story, “Can Events Help Solve the Global Food Crisis?” For access to additional CMP Series stories, go to CMP Series web page.