NYC Event Fights Food Waste

What happens to the leftover food after a large catered event? Some of it might get sent home with event staff, some might get composted. Most of it, however, ends up in the garbage and is destined for a landfill. A great deal of hard work, careful consideration, money, and resources go into coordinating the preparation, transportation, and presentation of catered food; it is a shame for it to be dumped into the trash and go uneaten.  Implementing a food recovery plan at an event saves money, reduces negative environmental impacts, and helps the community.

NationSwell, a social media impact company, wanted to ensure they did the right thing with their surplus food after their 2017 Fall Summit, an annual event where media innovators and influencers gather to inspire change in the coming year. The company’s mission is “focusing America on solutions, not just problems.” That mission guides their work in the social media sector, and they proved to be just as solution-oriented when planning their event. NationSwell worked with us at Food Recovery Network (FRN) to plan a recovery and get their Fall Summit Food Recovery Verified.

Our team helped NationSwell establish a food recovery plan and coordinate logistics to have the food picked up and delivered to a nonprofit who could redistribute the food. First, we identified all of the food items that could be recovered. Then, we talked through techniques for sending out food in phases rather than all at once and replenishing serving dishes to optimize the amount of food that could be salvaged. We recruited students from the New York University (NYU) FRN chapter, Two Birds One Stone, to pick up the food after the event. Lastly, we coordinated with NationSwell and the NYU volunteers to determine the best time for recovery and confirm that the volunteers had access to the event to collect the food donations.

  Lanie, NYU student, wheeling extra food from NationSwell Fall Summit for donation to The Bowery Mission.  

Lanie, NYU student, wheeling extra food from NationSwell Fall Summit for donation to The Bowery Mission.  

When the students arrived, the food had been already cooled down to the proper temperature, 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below,  and the event staff had packaged the food in pans for transportation. Our FRN student leaders delivered 215 pounds of surplus food to The Bowery Mission in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. That translates to 179 meals going to people in need rather than going to a landfill. Founded in 1879, the Bowery Mission helps people rebuild their lives and get out of  “cycles of poverty, hopelessness, and dependencies of many kinds.” Last year they were able to provide 505,000 meals to those in need. This recovery was a small, yet significant contribution to the larger efforts of the Bowery Mission.

FRN provided NationSwell with the tools and resources to plan and execute a recovery. With our help, they were able to support the local community by providing the edible surplus to a venerable NYC nonprofit. Putting a recovery plan in place is a simple solution to ensure surplus food from catered events goes towards alleviating hunger rather than negatively impacting the environment. We look forward to working with NationSwell again in the future to support their events through our program Food Recovery Verified. If you are interested in working with FRN to recover food from your next event, apply here: https://www.foodrecoverynetwork.org/frv-apply-events