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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Food Waste Donation: Everyone Wins!

Perry Kranias, steward of the
 amazing Tampa Airport program
Inspired by the successful food waste donation program at the Tampa Airport HMSHost operations, Brian Shetron - Concord Mills HMSHost general manager - decided to explore how a similar system would work in a food court scenario. 

At an airport, most of the donated food is "grab and go" meals that are pre-packaged with definitive shelf life. The ZWA Blog post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, gives an overview of the Tampa Airport donation program started in September, 2010. To date, 41 airports joined Tampa's lead with a total year-to-date donation of over 500,000 pieces of food (e.g. sandwich, yogurt parfait).

Quality control and high standards by their nature result in food production overages. At HMSHost airport foodservice operations, the pre-packaged foods have a maximum 24-hour shelf life for customer sales.  Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, a high-volume restaurant in Concord Mills, has a maximum 30-minute hold time once chicken is cooked. Working the balance of food overage and customer selection, the lean is on an overage to ensure customers are happy with menu availability.

Concord Mills staff freezing
food for doantion
At Concord Mills the majority of the food is eaten in the food court versus at an airport where most of the food is carried away. Thus, the mall food is generally in bulk versus pre-packaged in "grab and go" containers easily stacked for donation. For bulk donation items, the food is frozen as soon it passes the quality threshold for later thawing and heating at the shelters.

HMSHost contracts with the Food Donation Connection for their food waste donation programs. As part of their services, FDC assists the operator to determine what food waste generated meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and identifies food bank or shelter programs complementary with the food donation. With an intricate tracking system, FDC works closely with the operator's accounting department to ensure the appropriate inventory donation tax deductions are taken.
one of the first donation collections
photo courtesy of HMSHost

In mid-September, Brian started Concord Mills food court donations to the local Second Harvest affiliate. Current estimates are 300 - 400 pounds of food donated per week from the HMSHost-operated food court for an annual 7.5 tons of food going to hungry bellies instead of composting.

The Concord Mills food waste program epitomizes how best practices create scenarios where all parties WIN:  
  • Local shelters receive additional food for a hungry population.
  • Simon Property Group, owner of Concord Mills, has reduced waste | recycling tipping fees. More importantly, SPG has a template to implement in their almost 400 malls nationwide.
  • HMSHost receives an inventory donation tax deduction resulting in an improved bottom line. More importantly, a template is created for their shopping mall food court operations. Brian and his team know their efforts make a huge difference to their local community and beyond.
Kudos to Brian for taking the helm on the Concord Mills food waste donation program. The best part is Brian did not wait for the FDC green light for the tracking system, which begins in October. Stay tuned for more tales once the Concord Mills program is running full-steam.

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