It’s true – our eyes are often bigger than our stomachs. Following catering menu portion guidelines for your meetings surely helps combat over-ordering, but it doesn’t mean you won’t get stuck with extra food at the end of your event. Instead of stressing over what to do with the excess bounty, remember that leftovers is a wonderful problem to have — especially when there are countless ways you can handle them.
Food waste recycling seems like a task many busy office managers just don’t have the bandwidth to tackle. Many are inclined to leave it and forget it in the kitchen, hoping it gets scooped up later. Of course, the easiest option is to throw it away, but wasting that much excess food feels wrong when so many Americans go hungry each day. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates up to 40% of all food goes to waste in the U.S. That amounts to over $161 billion worth of food down the drain.
So instead of dumping that pile of pastries into the trash, consider other ways to handle those inevitable leftovers. Here are a few new things you can try to create a food waste recycling program that works.
Select the food you wish to donate first
Before you can begin your food waste recycling efforts, you must decide what food is suitable for donation.Your liability concerns surrounding excess food donations are put to rest, thanks to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Still, inedible, spoiled, or rotten food should be thrown out.
Some organizations are hesitant to accept food that’s already been cooked, but chances are parts of your catering meal include raw ingredients or individual foods that are suitable for donation. Items like bruised fruits and vegetables are considered fair game for most food recovery programs, as are extra bread rolls, butter packets, or sliced veggies.
Once you have a handle on what you plan to donate, find an appropriate donation center. Here are some ideas:
Food rescue teams are popping up in cities all over the country. Since they manage food donations for you, it couldn’t be easier to work with these non-profit organizations. Simply contact the company and arrange your donation pick-up online.
Try places like City Harvest in New York which collects excess food from hotels, restaurants, and corporate cafeterias and delivers it to 500 soup kitchens and food pantries across the state. Similar organizations like Lovin’ Spoonfuls and Rescuing Leftover Cuisine in Boston will also coordinate your food donation and deliver it to establishments in need.
Just remember to contact these places in advance to schedule a time that coordinates with your meeting. Establishing a running list of helpful organizations in your area can ensure this food waste recycling initiative becomes a regular process for all future meetings and events.
Sorting your food for potential donation will still leave you with extra grub you can’t donate to people, but would still rather not waste. Consider donating leftovers to farmers and their livestock instead. Vegetable scraps or cold soups are all items that can be rendered down, treated, and processed, then fed to animals for much cheaper than typical livestock feed. Some local zoos can make use of food waste on site.
For example, Rutgers University and MGM Resorts International regularly donate excess food to nearby farmers at half the cost of sending waste to landfills, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Your office can do it, too. Just make sure to review the regulations in your state, as some states prohibit donations like dairy or coffee grounds that could harm animals.
Quick Tip: Don’t forget the receipt!
There is one extra monetary advantage of food waste recycling at the office. Food donations to nonprofit organizations, farmers, or shelters are tax deductible. Remember to get a receipt for every donation you make so you can claim these extra deductions come tax time.
Composting is an easy way to recycle organic materials into rich soil. This method of reducing food waste is becoming increasingly popular in both large and small office environments. If your town doesn’t have a local compost collection center, you can set up your own system at work. A composter tumbler-and-bin system or a vermicomposter — yes, the ones with the worms — will easily transform extra vegetables, fruits, breads, and coffee grounds into nutrient-rich soil. The green-thumbed coworkers in your office will be happy to take the compost you create home to their gardens for support.
Also, the venues you book to host larger themed parties and catered meals may have their own composting policy. Ask your event space hostess about how you can help them recycle all those extra finger foods and paper products commonly left behind after an out of office event.
Maybe you’d be more inclined to leave extra food in the kitchen if you knew it had a better chance of getting scooped up. Try brainstorming an easy food recipe that can be made using the ingredients on the catering menu you ordered and offer it to your team. They’ll leave your meeting with both a full belly and a unique dinner idea.
Another simple alternative would be to allow your coworkers to show off their culinary skills. Ask them to share their favorite ways they like to incorporate leftovers into a new meal at home and compile the answers into a “wasted food” recipe idea book. Putting your team in the “leftover mindset” will help cut back on waste if they know ways they can use extra food later on.
Making use of leftover food from meetings and events doesn’t have to be difficult. All it takes is a subtle shift in thinking. Implementing a few of these easy food waste recycling strategies will help put your office on the fast track to sustainability.