Hunger in the United States of America is a real problem, especially in resort cities with many visitors like Las Vegas, San Francisco, Hollywood, Waikiki.Waikiki . Many tourists are stunned when they see desperate people digging through smelling garbage in front of their expensive resort hotels, only to grab some food. Resorts throw large quantities of unused banquet and buffet food in the garbage every day. The MICE industry with their banquets and dinner buffets is notorios for excess food generated in large quantities.
MGM Resorts International in partnership with Three Square Food Bank, announced a new standardized program for safe collection, preservation and service of surplus banquet food that will help reduce hunger in Southern Nevada.
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This new program, in which MGM Resorts donates surplus (prepared but unserved) hot banquet food to Three Square, is expected to provide 800,000 nutritious meals by 2020 to people combating hunger.
Food insecurity is one of the most serious public health challenges in the United States, according to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture. One in seven Americans is unable to meet their regular, nutritional needs to sustain a healthy life. Over 279,000 people struggle with hunger in Southern Nevada, including 109,000 children.
“Food insecurity is an issue that means a lot to me, and to the 55,000 MGM Resorts employees who live and work in Southern Nevada,” said Phyllis A. James, Chief Diversity & Corporate Responsibility Officer of MGM Resorts. “Those who struggle with hunger in this community are our friends and our neighbors. We care about them. I believe those in privileged positions have a moral obligation to lend a helping hand to help pull up those in need. This new development gives us another tool in our collective community arsenal against hunger.”
The surplus banquet food program consists of the collection of prepared but unserved hot, surplus banquet food from MGM Resorts’ properties. Three Square freezes the food through blast-chilling technology, then stores it until a community need arises. This gives hunger relief agencies the ability to order prepared entrees and menu items from Three Square, incorporating them into their ongoing meal planning.
The pilot program began at ARIA Resort & Casino in 2016. Since then, a team of banquet chefs, food safety experts and others collaborated to develop protocols – emphasizing proper food safety principles – for large-scale recovery of this type of food, which otherwise would be wasted. In approximately a year’s time, more than 100,000 pounds of food – over 80,000 meals – were donated.
As part of its program announcement, MGM Resorts also highlighted its award of a two-year, $768,000 grant to Three Square to help the nonprofit create an infrastructure that will allow this program to expand to the company’s major convention resorts, including Bellagio, MGM Grand, The Mirage and Mandalay Bay. The program will continue at ARIA.
“We are often asked what Las Vegas hotels do with their leftover food,” said Brian Burton, President & CEO of Three Square Food Bank. “Today, we have a consistent, scalable answer to that question, one that will feed more food insecure people in Southern Nevada. Combating food insecurity and hunger is a collaborative effort. MGM Resorts is helping to establish a successful, standardized process that others will be able to follow.”
MGM Resorts and Three Square have developed standard operating procedures to ensure the safe, consistent and replicable collection of surplus banquet food. Over the next few months, those best practices will be available to others, in hopes of inspiring similar action across the hospitality industry.
This surplus banquet food donation program is part of MGM Resorts’ long-standing food waste reduction efforts, and demonstrates the company’s commitment to strengthen the communities in which it operates.
Fighting food insecurity is one of the company’s philanthropic areas of emphasis. MGM Resorts played a central role in the founding of Three Square in 2007. MGM Resorts’ Las Vegas employees have donated more than 3.3 million pounds of canned food to Three Square since 2010. Company employees support the food bank’s efforts year round through MGM Resorts Foundation donations and employees’ volunteer efforts. Since the founding of Three Square, MGM employees have volunteered more than 47,000 hours in support of the non-profit’s mission.
MGM Resorts also participates in other aid to Three Square, such as Restaurant Week. To ensure that school children who struggle with hunger received meals through the summer months, in each of the past two years, 2016 and 2017, MGM Resorts gave a $50,000 grant to fund Three Square’s Back Pack for Kids program.