Running On Empty

“If you’re in the back of the line, chances are, there will not be enough food for you.”

That was the announcement made over the loudspeaker at the Sustainable Solutions Expo today. Huh??

The usual conference scene. photo by Northeast Indiana via Creative CommonsNow, conferences are often culprits when it comes to food waste. Organizers seem to provide an abundance, and because meals are usually served buffet style, donation of that excess isn’t allowed (for health code reasons).

At today’s event, held in Raleigh’s beautiful new convention center, there was no 5 to 10 percent “padding,” or extra, in case people took seconds or unexpected guests arrived. In fact, there was negative padding.

And they really ran out, announcing over the loudspeaker that they had struck a deal with the hotel across the street to offer complimentary lunch to those with conference badges.

I’m all for reducing waste, but this was taking things a bit too far (and I actually got a lunch). A exhibitor familiar with food service practices speculated that the hosts, AASHE, being a sustainable bunch, may have told the conference center not to prepare extra to avoid waste.

Then I asked a conference worker what the story was. There were far more guests than the host had paid for. Now that’s one way to prevent waste!

Has anyone out there ever been at a conference or catered event where they ran out of food?

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