“Los Angeles County is home to the largest estimated population of food-insecure people in the U.S.—with close to 1.5 million people unsure of how and when they will obtain their next quality meal. Donating surplus food to local food banks and food recovery organizations can benefit Angelenos in need, provide tax benefits through deductible donations, and reduce the burden on landfills.”*
One of the major initiatives of Terranea’s Sustainability Ambassadors in 2017 is food waste. What is food waste? “Food is only a waste product when it is misallocated.” In our effort to contribute to our community and divert food from the landfill, Terranea Resort was fortunate enough to be one of ten hotels and resorts chosen nationwide for the World Wildlife Fund’s Food Waste Pilot Project. Starting in March, we actively sought different ways to lessen our food waste at Terranea Resort. One of the many ways we lessened our food waste was re-establishing our relationship with Chefs to End Hunger. Chefs to End Hunger is the non-profit sector of one of our food distributors, LA & SF Specialty. When we have a surplus of safely chilled food, we are able to divert it from the landfill by filling up Hunger Kits that are picked up and distributed to either the Midnight Mission in Downtown LA or Bracken’s Kitchen in Orange County.
On Tuesday, October 10, Cathy Nguyen and I represented Chefs to End Hunger and Terranea Resort at the Midnight Mission. The Midnight Mission has several different programs for both men and women. About 500-1,000 meals are served per day: for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There are fewer meals served at the beginning of the month when people have money and receive their paychecks. At the end of the month, there is a greater need as people run out of money. There are 5 paid employees in the kitchen; the rest of the day depends on volunteers. The Midnight Mission provides food, shelter, and programming. The day room is a sanctuary for those who need a safe place from Skid Row. The Midnight Mission’s annual budget is about $8-9 million, there is no government funding, and they are self-sufficient and privately funded. It is a spiritual program that encourages its participants to connect to a higher power. The Midnight Mission has open mic night, comedians, and music every week. Sometimes the LA Philharmonic comes! There is a Midnight Mission band and our tour guide, Santiago, is the bass player in it.
The outdoor courtyard sleeps 100-150 people, has two public restrooms, and is heated 24/7 if needed. The courtyard is a great place for people to feel safe because it has security cameras. There is a dental room, a vital room, and an assessment room. Each participant takes an assessment test to place them in the correct level for classes. There are tutors that help with resumes and interview advice-- such as always making eye contact!
Around 11AM we joined Clarity and Chef Billy Lansing from Playa Hermosa, Nicolas (an independent volunteer), and Brette Waters and Saul from Chefs to End Hunger. Santiago introduced himself as a participant and as our tour guide. He is 44 years old and started his program on June 28. Santiago is part of the counseling and 12 step process, he said it was very nice to see the “life” in our eyes. Next, Joey Weinert introduced himself as the Volunteer Manager and was very excited to have Chefs to End Hunger representatives volunteer for lunch service. While on our tour, there were several different participants and associates who thanked us for our food donations; when they see Chefs to End Hunger they know they are about to enjoy a very tasty and healthful meal!
After taking a tour, we started getting ready to serve lunch. The menu included meat lasagna, rice, coleslaw, yogurt, orange juice, and bread. All patrons who received lunch were very pleasant and grateful. After serving the hungry, we cleaned the dining room and prepared a few items for dinner service.
This was an excellent opportunity to be a part of because we were able to close the circle of sustainability with Chefs to End Hunger and Terranea’s surplus food. Not only does our food get diverted from the landfill, it fills peoples’ stomachs and makes them very, very happy!
The Midnight Mission is able to keep the meals at such a low cost of production because of food donations like Terranea’s! It costs 95 cents to serve each meal, per person, at the Midnight Mission, which includes salaries and maintenance. If anyone wants to volunteer to serve breakfast, lunch, or dinner, please contact Joey Weinert 213.624.9258 ext. 1248. If anyone wants to donate, they can text MEALS to 71777.
Before donating to a charity, it is important to be informed and there is an easy way to see how charities are rated. Learn more from Charity Navigator here.
*Learn more from these sources:
LA & SF Specialty: http://www.laspecialty.com/
The Midnight Mission: http://www.midnightmission.org/
Feeding America: http://www.feedingamerica.org