When waste is good: Caterer’s donations to homeless

While canned food drives and holiday donations may bring awareness to the needs of homeless people in the community, the need for donations exists year-round, and sometimes those needs are filled by unexpected donors.

For the past 10 to 15 years, Classique Catering – which contracts with the Sacramento Convention Center to provide food for convention center events – has been donating its excess to charity.

“A lot of times, there will be events where a company plans on 800 people showing up, and they pay for food for that many, but maybe only 600 show up, leaving us with 200 extra meals,” said Classique Catering General Manager Vickie Housholder.

Those extra 200 meals – whether they be individual boxed lunches, pastries and fruits, buffet dishes, salads or any other item – are then picked up by workers for the Union Gospel Mission and served later that day to those in need.

“There’s a huge variety of food, and it helps us be green, because we aren’t throwing it into a landfill, so it’s good for everyone,” Housholder said.

Only the food that is not served can be donated, since anything that has been sent out to a table cannot be re-served without violating the health code.

The Union Gospel Mission serves between 120 and 160 people each evening, and Food Services Manager Tim Trenum said the partnership is a good program.

“Anything is a blessing,” he said. “We have cooks here who are knowledgeable and can incorporate whatever we get into a soup or some type of dish.”

He said that there are also cases where the charity receives boxed lunches and salads already measured for individual servings, and those are then offered to the people who come through the door.

The Union Gospel Mission is not just open to homeless, but anyone in need of a meal or other services offered, including showers and clothing.

“We turn no one away. People should know we have an open-door policy,” Trenum said.

While the Sacramento Convention Center is a city-owned entity, Classique Catering is a contractor, and the city is not providing food through the center for the homeless.

“The food is paid for by whoever is having the event,” Housholder said. “When we let them know what we can do with the leftover food that wasn’t used at their event, they are usually happy to see that it’s going to do some good.”

Other places Union Gospel Mission receives food from include Foodlink and Senior Gleaners, both businesses that collect food from private businesses such as grocery stores and then sell it at very low prices to charities, Trenum said.

During the course of a typical month, he added, about 8,600 meals are served.

Housholder said that Classique Catering typically makes about 5 percent more food than is ordered in case more people show up to an event, and not every event has overages that can be donated, but sometimes the truck from Union Gospel Mission will come as many as three times per week for pickups.

“It’s really nice to know that something that is perfectly fine and safe to serve is going to people who need it,” she said.

Union Gospel Mission is located at 400 Bannon St.

Brandon Darnell is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Darnell.

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March 13, 2012 | 8:30 PM

Truly Amazing

March 13, 2012 | 8:42 PM

I love that Classique Catering is donating perfectly good food instead of wasting it and throwing it out! I wish every bakery, restaurant, grocery store would consider those that are less fortunate & give out their food that the would normally just toss in the garbage… better to hand out than toss out!! What a way to lead by example!! Keep up the great work!!!

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