Food insecurity affects nearly 50 million people in America and is a growing problem. One in six Boston residents struggle with hunger, but LONGWOOD’s Vice President of Culinary Arts & Development Chef David Blessing has been changing that by raising awareness about event food donations in Boston and providing much needed meals to the community, an idea brought to his attention by the New England Chapter of the National Association for Catering and Events Feeding Our Neighbors initiative.
On October 20, 2015, Chef David addressed an audience of 250 event planners and designers at the Marketing to High End Bride XX celebration held at the State Room in Boston. In his remarks, Chef David talks about how the industry has a lot to offer through post-event food donations. [Many thanks to GENERATIONS cinemastories for producing this wonderful video.]
Chef David believes that being a chef comes with a responsibility to feed people and to not waste food. When he was first approached about the idea more than two years ago, he was happy to get involved and excited about the opportunity to affect others in such a positive way. He was motivated by a desire to give back and the duty that the industry has to positively affect hunger in our communities.
“I have always participated in various events, been involved in donating food with other organizations, and in general have been a supporter of the cause. We live in a society of great wealth and prosperity compared to other countries. Most of us are very lucky to always have food on our plates and the least we can do as humans is help others who have cannot afford to eat 3 meals a day. We Are surrounded by more food than we can consume everyday and its tragic that there are still people out there who have nothing.”
Food waste in the catering and event industry is one of the most recognizable areas of food loss in America. One third of the world’s food goes uneaten every year, and 40% of all prepared food in America is put in landfills.
Throughout his career, Chef David noticed this waste and knew many event professionals wanted to do something about it, but there was always a concern about donor liability, leaving venues and caterers feeling they had no choice but to throw food in the trash.
THE BILL EMERSON GOOD SAMARITAN FOOD DONATION ACT
The reality however, is that food donors are protected from liability by the federal government. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996 and protects all good-faith donors from any and all, civil and criminal liability, in the donation of event food. It creates an umbrella of protection to all individuals, corporations, venues, caterers, and food rescue operations, with state laws such as the Massachusetts’ Good Samaritan Law providing yet another layer of protection.
But even though state and federal laws have been in place for more than a decade to protect businesses and individuals, people are still worried — or worse yet, not even aware of the protections that exist. Another common misconception is that donating food takes extra time, but in the amount of time it takes to throw away excess food, food can quickly and easily be packaged for donation to a food rescue organization. To this day, Massachusetts businesses throw away thousands of pounds of wholesome food that could instead be feeding hungry people.
THE NENACE FEEDING OUR NEIGHBORS INITIATIVE
Hoping to bring awareness to the issue, in 2011, a concerned group of members from the New England chapter of the National Association of Catering and Events (NENACE) joined together to create a solution to the thousands of pounds of event food wasted every day.
While in the role of public relations chair, Naomi Raiselle, co-founder and creative director of GENERATIONS cinemastories, launched the New England NACE Feeding our Neighbors initiative in collaboration with community service chair, Dana Siles, to educate the industry and dramatically reduce waste of unserved event food. Since then, the initiative has been promoting industry-wide education regarding the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act.
Over the past four years, Feeding Our Neighbors has set up several partnerships with caterers, venues, planners, other event professionals and food rescue operations to facilitate the regular donation of unserved event food to those in need. Their hope is to see event food donations become a best practice for the community and the industry at large.
LONGWOOD and Feeding Our Neighbors have worked extensively with Boston Rescue Mission to help collect thousands of pounds of prepared food that would otherwise have gone to waste. The Boston Rescue Mission serves around 150,000 community meals per year to anyone who needs a hot meal. These meals are especially important because they provide comfort and security to the people who need it most. For more information on the Boston Rescue Mission email Eric Grenfell-Muir or call 617.338.9000 x 1209.
LONGWOOD is proud to be a participating member of the NENACE Feeding Our Neighbors initiative. Whether you are a corporate event planner, a chef, or a bride-to-be, it is a great place to begin making a positive impact on those in need, but on everyone from your employees to the broader Boston community.
Feeding Our Neighbors also maintains listings of regional food rescue operations that welcome donations throughout Boston and Massachusetts as well as in Connecticut, Maine, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire.
To learn how you can donate excess food from your event, contact our Director of Sales, Diane Sayers. We will make all the arrangements and take care of all the details as well as procure a food donation receipt for our clients should they wish to have it recorded as a tax deductible donation.