Fighting Food Waste: How Catering Companies Can Work With Charities

dirty plates and leftover food on a large table after an event

The catering industry seems like a natural partner for charitable work, as you would think it is well-positioned to donate extra food and provide meal services to charitable causes like charity fundraisers, walks and runs, hospitals and essential workers, retirement homes, and homeless shelters. However, you might be surprised to learn that it can be very difficult for catering businesses to partner with charity groups and convert their food wastage into something more useful. So how can catering food waste be mitigated?

In this article, we’ll take a look at the root of this issue and propose potential solutions for catering businesses that are interested in giving their food wastage a second chance at life.

Why can’t catering companies donate leftover food?

After a catered event, unfortunately the leftover food usually cannot be donated because by the end of the event the food has been sitting out for a long period of time and has been exposed to groups of people. By the time it could be packed up and delivered somewhere else, it would be at too high of a risk for foodborne illness.

The risk for foodborne illness also increases with the process of repeated heating, cooling, refrigerating, and re-heating, so even storing the food in a cold place while it is waiting to be donated might not be a good solution.

Furthermore, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, large events with shared catering are not likely to return to pre-pandemic styles any time soon, so an entirely new approach to donating food might be needed for catering businesses who are concerned about food wastage and giving back to the community.

Ways catering companies can still partner with charities and prevent food wastage

While there is no current solution for the problem of food wastage after a catered event, there are still ways that catering businesses can partner with charities, especially during these challenging times. Here are some of our favourite ideas for paying it forward with food.

Make meals specifically for a charity

This might be obvious, but instead of looking to donate leftover food, catering companies can arrange to produce meals specifically for their charity of choice. Providing meals for an event or organisation for a certain period of time is a great way to give back to the community. One great way to do this is to track the number of catered meals that are sold over a period of time (perhaps a month) and then match that number for meals provided to charity. This can be a one-time thing or a regular occurrence—whatever is possible helps!

Donate pre-packaged to-go meals

“Catering” can often conjure up images of buffets with large, open trays of food served with shared utensils, but the catering industry has undergone a transformation during the pandemic. To avoid the risk of cross-contamination of the food from people sharing the same buffet, many catering businesses have changed their services to provide more individual, pre-packaged, to-go meals instead.

These pre-packaged meals have been very popular and provide an increased level of food safety for diners. If a catering company were to leave a portion of their pre-packed meals in refrigeration throughout the entirety of the event and only take out what was needed, then they might be able to successfully donate those items without risk of foodborne illness since they were never removed from safe refrigeration to begin with.

Partner with essential worker organisations

Essential workers like healthcare professionals and first responders need more support than ever. Many catering businesses are well-equipped to provide meals to these essential workers. Items like individual take-home meals and heat-and-serve meal kits are so helpful and can make a world of difference to these heroes. Catering businesses that find themselves with extra ingredients that are at risk of becoming food wastage might consider arranging to divert those supplies to make meals for essential works instead.

Grow your catering business

If you’re looking to grow your catering business, FoodStorm can help automate your processes and reduce administrative work time, allowing you to focus more on catering. 

Contact us today to learn what FoodStorm can do for you.

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