Overland Park Convention Center Partners With Local Food Recovery Organization to Address Food Waste and Fight Hunger
In keeping with its progressive sustainability initiatives, the Overland Park Convention Center (OPCC) recently took a major step toward combatting large-scale event food waste and hunger in its local community.
Last month, the Overland Park, Kan.-based facility announced it had formed a partnership with Pete’s Garden, a food recovery organization based in Kansas City, Mo. that recovers surplus prepared foods from local caterers, restaurants and food service operations, then repackages and redirects the food as healthy take-home meals for families needing assistance in the greater Kansas City area.
Distributed for free through social service organizations that serve families with children, the take-home meals are currently being provided to Head Start programs and social service organizations including Operation Breakthrough, Boys & Girls Club, Jewish Family Services, Avenue of Life and Shawnee Community Services.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food waste comprises an estimated 30-40% of the entire food supply, with minimizing food waste posing a significant challenge to the hospitality industry, including convention venues.
Determined to combat this problem, the OPCC started composting its food waste in August 2021 and began prioritizing food donation. However, faced with growing limitations about the type of food agencies would accept and when they would accept it, finding a home for its surplus food became increasingly challenging. And as these limitations grew, so did the facility’s food waste problem.
That’s when partnering with a local food recovery organization such as Pete’s Garden became the best solution for not only preventing food waste at the facility but also making a positive environmental impact while helping those in need.
“To tackle this issue, we have implemented a two-pronged approach: first, by donating prepared food to those in need, and second, through food composting as a part of our current sustainability program,” explained Jessica Corona, OPCC director of food and beverage. “We are always seeking ways to be more sustainable while also being a people-focused organization—what better way to meet this goal then by serving those in our local community?”
In 2022 alone, Pete’s Garden recovered nearly 70,000 lbs. of prepared proteins and side dishes and distributed more than 75,000 meals to local families, but collaborating with the convention center will allow the organization to make an even greater impact, according to Pete’s Garden officials.
“Pete’s Garden makes it easier for families to share healthy meals together at home,” explained Tamara Weber, founder and executive director of Pete’s Garden. “To ensure food safety and provide fresh and healthy meals to families, Pete’s Garden is very selective about what food can be donated. The Overland Park Convention Center has demonstrated exemplary adherence to these food safety standards.”
Pete’s Garden accepts food only if it has been prepared in a health department inspected kitchen, and handled and stored in accordance with safe time-temperature standards. Volunteers then package the meals in a commercial kitchen facility overseen by food safety certified staff, and all meals are labeled with a use-by date.
In addition to food recovery, Pete’s Garden partners with high school culinary arts programs to engage students in preparing take-home meals for families in their communities. Aptly named Kids Feeding Kids (KFK), this program provides educators with a standards-based food justice and culinary curriculum that focuses on increasing food access, reducing food insecurity and raising awareness around the social and environmental impacts of food waste. Educators who participate in KFK receive lesson plans along with all the ingredients and supplies they need to help their students prepare up to 1,000 meal servings.
To learn more about the Overland Park Convention Center’s partnership with Pete’s Garden and other sustainability initiatives, go here. To donate, volunteer or learn more about Pete’s Garden, go here.
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