Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) Acknowledges the Traditional Owners of Narrm, the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to their Elders past and present, and to Elders of all First Nations communities that visit MCEC.

Reducing Food Wastage

Our Food and Beverage department has been working with Oz Harvest to maximise the amount of food the centre redistributes. The team has set an ambitious target of donating 35,000 meals (equating to approx. 11,660 kilos) by June 2018, and a number of rescue systems have been implemented over the past 12 months to recover unused food during events.

Neil Mather, Senior Manager of Food and Beverage explains what changes have taken place over the past year.

Can you tell us about our relationship with Oz Harvest and how we work together to redistribute our unused food?

Our venue has become more focused on how to reduce food wastage by increasing our knowledge of our business requirements and food ratios. We have implemented a more regimented ordering process to reduce the wastage. However, we recognised in mid-2016 that we had to do more as an organisation when it came to food rescuing and donating. Since then, the MCEC and Oz Harvest have fostered a solid relationship.

What types of food do we donate?

Generally speaking, we donate a lot of leftover food from conferencing. At times, specific meetings and conferences don’t get the delegate numbers as first predicted. Other times, unfortunately, people don’t eat as much as anticipated. We work on a food ratio per person however there are always anomalies that contribute to leftover food. Through our partnership with Oz Harvest, we’re able to donate:

  • Bread

  • Sandwiches

  • Dessert and pastries

  • Fruit and vegetable

  • Dry goods

  • Beverages

  • Raw meats

Your team has been busy implementing a number of initiatives to recover unused food, can you explain what processes you have put in place?

The first part of recovering the unused food was to get the management team talking about it and getting the entire workforce on board. We recognised the need to change a few steps with our service delivery process after an event. An important element was the safe handling of food after an event so it still complied with our Food Safety Management system.

The most prominent change we have made is the safe storage of food. All food from the kitchen is dispatched to an event. The food is allowed to be left out of the fridge for some time until it is deemed unsafe for consumption. Instead of taking all the food out to the buffets, we try to leave the excess in our various cool rooms. This takes a little more logistics to control however the rewards are great for food rescuing.

At the end of a meal period, our team leaders and managers are trained to pack up the food in the designated Oz Harvest containers. The allocated food is then transferred to our dispatch cool room. A secondary check of the food is undertaken to ensure the Kitchen Logistics Managers conducts compliance. Containers are then provided with a sticker and then moved to a designated cool room where it awaits pick up from Oz Harvest.

Temperature checks of the food and cool room are checked and signed off before picking up.

All food that is donated is registered internally, which assist us with the traceability of the food once it leaves the premises.

Is there anything individual staff members can do to help minimise food waste?

There are always improvements that we can make to minimise food waste. We’re fortunate at the MCEC as technology plays an integral part in our food safety – automated temperature control and monitoring of our cool rooms are two examples. We are committed to sustainability and there are a number of initiatives individuals can adhere to, such as:

  • Step one towards reducing waste is being aware

  • Notifying supervisors of faulty equipment and fridges

  • Accurate ordering of food and beverage minimises wastage

  • Ensuring that food is quickly rescued alleviating any food safety issues

  • Reviewing our menu planning guide to reduce wastage and portion sizes

  • Communicating to other events of high left-over items – this will ensure proper distribution of food across the buildings

  • Know how much food is being thrown away in the trash every day

  • Portion sizes of our food

  • Recycle everything that can be recycled

  • Use a keep cup when ordering your coffee to reduce the use of takeaway cups.