Rockefeller Foundation Focuses on How to Prevent Food Waste at Events
Even when wowing attendees, squandering food is not cool
We’ve all been there. A lunch buffet has just been served in the hotel meeting room, and now the first PowerPoint of the next session has flashed on-screen. You happen to glance over at the food setup and see all that food still sitting in those chafing dishes.
As Americans, we waste enough food annually to feed the planet’s malnourished several times over, according to The Rockefeller Foundation. The average American household spends an estimated $1,500 to $2,000 a year on food never eaten. Businesses, manufacturers and farms spend $74 billion creating and transporting food that ends up in landfills.
Tighten the Food Chain
Food waste as an issue is finally having its moment. Several high-profile chefs, led by Anthony Bourdain, participated in Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, a feature-length documentary that premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival. In the film, these chefs evangelize for head-to-tail dining—making delicious dishes from what most people consider food scraps. Pig’s ears and chicken feet are at one extreme, but there are also classic dishes such as French fish stew bouillabaisse, which traditionally enabled fishermen to feed their families on “junk fish” they couldn’t sell.
The movie also featured waste-reduction stories from all over the world, including a disposal program in South Korea that has reduced household food waste by 30 percent.
A Hospitality Test
American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, launched several pilot projects last year to test innovative strategies for reducing food waste in the hotel industry. Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, Sage Hospitality and Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes, California, participated in the 12-week tests.
The results were promising. Overall, participating properties reduced food waste at least 10 percent. As with most green initiatives, there were cost savings, too—3 percent or more.
“We no longer have the luxury of time,” says Pete Pearson, director of food waste at WWF. “Because our food carries such a high environmental cost, avoiding waste is a win-win for both business and the planet. As these demonstration projects show, with increased hotel industry engagement, we know we can make a difference.”
AHLA has since released a toolkit to help hotels follow these same practices, but some are already ahead of the curve. MGM Resorts International, for instance, is partnering with Three Square Food Bank in southern Nevada to provide 800,000 unserved banquet meals from five MGM properties during the next two years. And the company has been introducing other food-waste reduction measures for years...