Many event and meeting planners recognize that food and beverage is perhaps one of the most significant line items in the overall program, so it’s obvious that there will almost always be plenty of leftovers.
“If you expect your local venues/suppliers to participate in donating actual left-over foods, you will need to ensure that they will do so – in advance,” says Elizabeth Henderson, CMM, CMP, M.E. Des., director of corporate responsibility for Meeting Professionals International (MPI), Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “Many venues are leery of participating due to the potential liability issues. In the U.S., there is a federal law (Food Donation Act) that eliminates liability from this type of situation, and other jurisdictions have similar laws.”
For those wanting to incorporate a food donation program into their events, it’s important to realize that this takes a collaborative effort. This includes the planner, the venue and the local food bank itself.
“The food bank also needs to have the ability to take “rescue” food – such as Second Harvest – rather than simply canned/boxed foods. Everyone could have the best of intentions, but if the infrastructure isn’t there, then it doesn’t work,” Henderson explains.
Food Donation at MPI MeetDifferent
For MeetDifferent, February 2009 in Atlanta, MPI partnered with the Atlanta Food Bank. Founded in 1979, the Atlanta Community Food Bank distributes almost 2 million pounds of food and other donated grocery items monthly to more than 800 non-profit partner agencies in 38 counties in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.
MPI volunteers assisted in the Product Recovery Center (PRC), which provides quality food, beverages, and health products to over 800 non-profit partner agencies in Metro Atlanta and the area. These partner agencies, in turn, distribute these products to individuals and families in need. Volunteers make this possible by sorting, inspecting and packing donated items for these groups. The PRC is a fun, hands-on project for groups, families, businesses, schools, and individuals.
Conference attendees were provided an opportunity to volunteer for the effort by registering online prior to the conference to work one of two different shifts at the Food Bank (morning or afternoon). You can register for the on-site event by signing up for either the morning or afternoon shift at the Food Bank. Those who couldn’t participate were also provided an opportunity to make a cash donation.
For those who may not have the resources to establish a local food bank program, Henderson suggests that those organizations may wish to consider an online (cash) donation through the Global Food Banking Network.