Las September, Andrew Hustak arrived at Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada a broken man with only $6 to his name. He didn’t know what to do and figured the nonprofit could help him get his life back on track.
“The first thing they asked me was, ‘have you eaten today?’ ” he says. “I hadn’t eaten in a day and a half.”
Hustak was able to enjoy one of Catholic Charities’ free community meals served every day to anyone in need.
A hot meal can make a difference in people’s lives.
Yet, in Southern Nevada one in seven people—roughly about 279,000 people—are dealing with food insecurity and don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Three Square Food Bank, along with its community partners handed out about 40 million pounds of food last year.
“To better meet the needs of our community we really need to be at 50 million pounds of food to make sure everyone, no matter what ZIP code they live in, will receive the wholesome food they need,” says Brian Burton, the CEO of Three Square. “We are constantly trying to fill that gap.”
In order to better meet the needs of those who are food insecure, MGM Resorts announced its partnership with the food bank to create a Surplus Banquet Food Donation Program.
“This is a new paradigm in food donation and recovery,” says Phyllis James, chief diversity and corporate responsibility officer of MGM Resorts. “This is a game changer in the fight against food insecurity. It will add a powerful new weapon in our collective struggle to ensure no one goes without adequate nutrition.”
The program collects leftover food that has not been served by conventions and banquets.
“We are not talking about food scraps or partially consumed pans of banquet food leftover by banquet participants,” James adds. “We are talking about prepared hot banquet food that has never left the hot box thus never presented to convention goers for consumption.”
In the past, MGM Resorts had donated all leftover food, whether it was food scraps or untouched items, to pig farms.
“And I say, these are the best feed pigs in the United States,” James notes.
MGM Resorts started the Surplus Banquet Food Donation as a pilot program in 2016 with conventions at Aria. Once an event is wrapping up, Three Square would come to transport the food. Back at the campus in the northeast area of town, Three Square puts food items in a chill blaster to cool and then places the food in a larger freezer for long-term storage. Community partners, such as Catholic Charities, can then have a chance to request items.
More than 100,000 pounds of food, which is about 80,000 meals, was donated from the initial program.
James says other companies have done similar surplus food donations.
“But those are usually for same day or next day use,” she adds. “Those have been done at a sporadic pace. Our program is different.”
On January 17, MGM announced a $768,000 grant to help expand the surplus food donation program to five properties: Aria, Mandalay Bay, MGM, The Mirage and Bellagio.
James says the money would also go toward staffing, equipment and supplies. The goal is donated 800,000 meals by 2020.
“This is a classic example of corporate social responsibility,” James says. “I hope this is a blueprint for others to follow.”