As part of its inaugural Stop Food Waste Day celebration, Morrison Healthcare announced a commitment to increase the number of food recovery and donation programs in which it participates. Morrison, which serves some one million meals daily in more than 650 hospitals, is a unit of Compass Group USA, which created Stop Food Waste Day and has pledged to reduce food waste by 25 percent by 2020, primarily by reducing food waste in its daily operations.
“Morrison team members are embracing the opportunity to minimize food waste and creating food recovery programs that are strengthening hospital and community partnerships,” said Morrison Healthcare CEO Tim Pierce in a prepared statement announcing the planned expansion of the program across the company’s operations.
As a model for a successful food donation program already within its sphere of operations, Morrison is turning to the relationship developed by its operation at Mission Health System in Asheville, N.C., with the Asheville Poverty Initiative (API).
There, the year-and-a-half-old program has been providing almost 50 pounds of fresh, nutritious food on average each week to the social service program, allowing API to serve some 1,600 meals a month.
“We started it in October of 2015,” says Jason Channell, Morrison’s regional director of operations, who helped facilitate the partnership with API. “Early that summer we had a meeting with [API Director] Rev. Shannon Spencer, who talked about her goal of serving those in need in the community.”
The relationship with API allows Mission Health’s dining operation to put excess production toward a worthy goal. While Morrison already had a strong composting program at Mission Health to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills, channeling unserved food to help feed hungry members of the community was certainly preferable, and the dining operation’s volume and prominence makes a real difference in a number of ways, Channell says.
“We’re one of the top contributors [to the API feeding program],” he observes. “One of our goals was to help raise awareness locally around the program so others would contribute and continue helping that cause. As it turns out, [Spencer] has a lot of other people who have hopped on board and are donating leftover food, but based on sheer volume we are, I believe, in the top two as far as total contributions per week.”
The program is made possible by Good Samaritan laws that protect Morrison and Mission Health from liability once the food they contribute is out of their control.
“We accept responsibility for the food while it is in our operation, that it meets our criteria, our safety and quality standards,” Channell explains, “but once [API] takes it, they take responsibility.”
The food is collected after meal periods, and what is deemed reusable is packaged, tagged, dated and stored in coolers until API volunteers come to pick it up five days a week. API’s 12 Baskets Café community kitchen is only about seven miles from the hospital, so there is little transport time to get the food from one location to the other, and API has ServSafe certified individuals at its kitchen to ensure the food remains properly handled.
When the program started, “they just showed up in the mid to late morning and took what we had ready,” Channell says. “Now, we actually call and alert them when we have food ready for pickup so they know what they’ll be getting prior to their arrival.”
The food donation program is just one part of an overall effort to reduce waste by making production and forecasting more efficient so that there is less left over. In fact, at the Mission Health operation, food cost has been reduced two percent through more efficient menu planning and inventory management, while still having enough food left for donations.
“We want to stop food waste at its source,” offers Amy Keister, who oversees sustainability initiatives for Compass as vice president of consumer engagement. “However, when that’s not possible, we partner with food recovery organizations and provide delicious, nutritious food to the community.”
An assist in that, Compass has entered into a partnership with Eatable, an organization that offers resources to establish food recovery programs. Keister says that Compass already operates approximately 25 food recovery programs nationwide in conjunction with hospitals and other clients.