According to this post, a recent study showed that as much as 40% of wedding food at these weddings goes to waste, despite the shocking hunger and poverty of their neighbors. It continues, using data gathered in Pakistan, "Taking the total number of social functions held in Karachi city alone, and the average waste of food by 15-20%, the losses are in tons." Mainly from guests loading their plates with far more food than they could possible eat... then tossing it in the bin!
One of my first, paying, event gigs was as a private chef for a Faculty/Staff soiree at the home of the late, internationally acclaimed, choral pedagogue /trainer/teacher,vocalist, Frauke Haasemann, in Princeton, NJ in 1986. Though I always liked to be charitable, here is where it was ingrained into my soul!
I was a twenty year-old, newly enrolled freshman at her school, Westminster Choir College (Now Westminster Choir College of Rider University) following my period of "finding myself" after graduating high school. The college's president, Dir. of Alumni relations, several department heads, and some colleagues from Princeton University, and local bon vivants, were on the guest list.
I was given a precise, and limited budget, shopped well and frugally, but was able to provide a abundant, lavish, upscale spread of gourmet cocktail hors d'oeuvres, amuses bouche and desserts. The food was a great success, but I over-prepared. I made too much food... or fewer people attended than I had planned. I wanted her to look a generous and a gracious host to her guests. Either way, there was a LOT of food left over, which really bothered me greatly. I spoke with the host, as my Sous, and my student-team of cleaners and servers, restored her kitchen to it's original condition at the end of the party. I asked her what she would like to do with the food.
She instructed me to prepare her containers of every item for her to keep, and to take the rest to share with the students in my dorm. I had prepped and assembled most of the foods in the dorm's kitchen, before packing me and my team into my car, arriving at her home and taking over her kitchen. That lesson of sharing has been a part of my event career since that very day!
Every time I'd create an event, I was always certain to consider where the "leftovers" would go. Here are some of the ways I "recycled" things after an event:
- Following an event in South Jersey, the team and I packed up the centerpieces and statement florals after the event, and, on the way home, pulled in at a nursing home we happened to be passing. We asked them if we could gift the pieces to their residents, to have a little "sunshine" around the place when they woke up.
- Though Caterers, these days, are PETRIFIED of lawsuits and food poisoning, some with whom the company worked were not, and were EAGER to make a difference. I would frequently ask for the extra food to be packaged and delivered to battered women's shelters, food pantries, soup kitchens, homeless shelters or schools for distribution.
- You can also connect with one of the most impressive and heartwarming organizations I know: FlowerPower (N.Y./L.A.)!!!! "Since February 2003 we have collected over $2,500,000 of donated flowers, re-assembled and given them to those who rarely receive such gifts of hope. Thousands of elderly, sick and terminally ill in New York City and Los Angeles have been touched by this act of kindness and we intend to expand our mission of uniting and healing generations throughout America."
- Here are some links to help donate event food to the needy: The Feeding America Food Bank Locator, to locate agencies in your, or any state. Call them, well in advance, to see what can be arranged; WastedFood.com.
It isn't always EASY to give food away, but, if you're creative and diligent, you can come up with some innovative ways to take that wasted food and use it to make a difference.
I'd also check the local papers for Community Calendar listings for events happening in your vicinity, and within 24 hours of your event. Tell them that you're having an event on "X" date and time and feel that there might be, catered, leftovers. If your caterer has a charitable bent, they can make sure that the food is packaged and stored properly to assure freshness. Or perhaps they can deliver the items to the organization you've contacted in advance!
If you don't ASK... you don't GET! There's no harm in trying, and there's a chance that your donation could really help someone or people in need! Don't let it get to a landfill and release gasses that are harmful to the environment! To me, it's worth every effort! You CAN make a difference! One event at a time!