Food For Thought!
Our World | On 01, Aug 2013
I recently attended a three night convention in Athens along with 200 event planners from all over the globe. The hotel was wonderful (Grande Bretagne), the production values slick and the content well thought out. However, there was one simple element that made this event stand out for me. It didn’t cost the organisers anything to do but the impact on me and the local community of Athens was HUGE.
The three day event involved three dinners and three lunches. Five of these functions were buffet affairs and as is the nature of these events there was food left over at the end of the evening. Instead of throwing this food away the DMC arranged for it to be given to the homeless – ensuring they ate for the evening. It got me thinking about what the impact would be if we as an industry got behind this idea and rolled it out across all of our events?
The MPI recently undertook a study into the economic impact of the UK Meeting and Events Industry. In it they identified that more than 1.3 million meetings were held in the UK in 2011. Now I’m going to make wide sweeping assumptions here – but bear with me.
The world consists of around 196 countries, some large some small but if you take the amount of meetings and events that take place within the UK and times that by 196 you get a figure of 254.8 million events happening world-wide. At P&MM our average event lasts 2 nights so that gives 509.6 million room nights. Let’s assume that 1 lunch and 1 dinner at those events are buffet dinners (dinners with a fair amount of waste) and that gives you 1 billion food functions. Times that by the amount of delegates on events (using our average of 140) and you get a figure of 140 Billion people being fed buffet type food at events (that figure does not take into account breakfast remember!).
Now we all know that a buffet type function is more expensive than a plated function. The reason is simple – there is waste. A hotel does not know how many people will want the chicken option and how many will want the beef option (as an example) so they over cater. From talking to a F&B Director at a hotel in London, he reckoned about 5% was the amount he’d traditionally over cater by. If you take the amount of people (140 billion) and take 5% of that figure you get 7 billion. Based on my totally unscientific figures, that is the amount of people, we as an industry could feed if we simply distributed waste from buffet type food functions to the homeless rather than simply throwing it away! As a point of reference – the world’s population is 6.7 billion.
From a quick search on the internet I understand that the closest we have come to estimating the amount of homeless people in the world was research carried out in 2005 when the UN estimated there to be around 100 million people that were homeless. So, if we all wanted to and were able to we could feed each homeless person in the world for 71 days a year – a fifth of their life!
Now my friendly F&B Director informs me that in the UK there are strict guidelines laid down by government as to what can and what cannot be done with food and it is this that stops them being able to distribute leftover food to the homeless.
Now don’t get me wrong I don’t want to poison people, but if I can cook myself a chicken dish one night and place the leftovers in a sandwich the next day without making myself ill then surely a qualified chef could find a way of doing the same? Imagine the impact! Imagine being able to give something back to the local community in the city you are organising your event in and it not costing you a penny! Who loses?