Julia Charles-Wiginton, MD, Julia Charles Event Management looks at how we can tackle the huge mountain of food waste in our industry
Food waste is rife; roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption gets lost or wasted every year*, but I have been looking at a couple of different ways that can help us to put our left-over conference food to good use.
We recently created a conference for Xero, they were a little unsure of the final number of delegates attending which meant that there could be a good deal of food wasted on the day.
I took on the challenge of doing something practical about it and contacted the local food bank. They advised us that they could only take food that was individually packaged with a sell by date, so we worked with the venue to completely change the menu and redesigned how the conference food was presented to delegates. Out went the classic lunch buffet, and in came a bespoke, simply packaged lunch bag including gourmet sandwiches and rolls, sweet treats and savouries and some liquid refreshments too. I can’t say that it was an easy process, as I had to wade through a load of legislation with the food banks and the venue.
I have since tried to repeat this at other locations and many of the food banks are reluctant or simply can’t accept the food. We are working with them to help understand what else we can do. They are changing their internal processes to make it easier and we are compiling a guide and checklist to help organisers to ensure that their conference food will be taken by food banks. Once we have it nailed, I will be campaigning to see this rolled out to the rest of the UK.
After starting the process with the foodbanks, I then came across Olio – a food waste app that is operational in the UK. It looks simple enough to use – you simply fill out a form and a volunteer will come and pick your food up and distribute it to the local community. They can bring food boxes to put food in, but I’m not sure how they get around the lack of individual packaging and sell by dates. I haven’t tried it out yet, but I am looking forward to testing how this works for the events sector.
If you have tried Olio, or have other ways to redistribute event food, please do get in touch so we can spread the word and collectively cut down on the food we waste in our industry.