Coping With Coronavirus: Hotels, Venues Donate Leftover Food and Supplies to Employees, Charities

Las Vegas Sands is helping out medical personnel and first responders with a donation of 2 million masks and 20,000 protective suits.

Bags of food ready for distribution at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado
Bags of food ready for distribution at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado

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UPDATED April 1, 2020, 1:20 p.m. EDT: As hotels, resorts and convention facilities across the country have suspended operations to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the properties are opening their refrigerators, their warehouses and their hearts to their local communities.

In the latest news, the Las Vegas Sands Corp. is donating 2 million medical masks and 20,000 protective suits to help health-care professionals, first responders and nonprofit organizations in the fight against COVID-19. Medical masks will be distributed in Nevada and in New York, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, with each state receiving 1 million masks. The 20,000 protective suits will be donated to hospitals and first responders in Nevada.

"Hopefully, our donations will help protect people on the front lines so they can continue their invaluable work, and we can start to see the numbers of people affected begin to diminish," said Sheldon G. Adelson, Sands' chairman and CEO. "Our properties in Las Vegas may be empty right now, but our hearts are full of hope for the future. The determination and courage I have seen in our Team Members, which I know is the same throughout this country, gives me every confidence we will get through this unprecedented crisis."

Pasadena Center Operating Company staff prepared, delivered and distributed 3,100 healthy meals for students of Pasadena Unified School District, March 28-29, 2020.

The PCOC -- along with Centerplate, the food-and-beverage provider for the Pasadena Convention Center and Pasadena Civic Auditorium -- prepared and distributed 3,100 healthy meals for the students. The PCOC and Centerplate will continue to donate to the PUSD over the next three weekends at seven distribution sites. Twenty PCOC staff members have volunteered to transport, set up and distribute the meals each Saturday and Sunday. The healthy meals include a sandwich, a piece of fruit, a bag of cookies and the option of milk or juice. 

“The PCOC is happy to help in this time of crisis,” said Michael Ross, CEO of the PCOC. “It has been a pleasure to work with the city of Pasadena, the Rose Bowl Operating Co. and our partners at Centerplate to coordinate and set the program in motion quickly. I am most proud of the number of PCOC staff who have stepped up to volunteer as this time of need.”

Caesars Entertainment has donated food, but is also providing essential personal-protection equipment to health-care workers and members of law enforcement. So far, the company has given away 250,000 pounds of food and thousands of items, including gloves, masks and hand sanitizer to local hospitals, first responders and local charities.

"We will continue to seek ways to give back to our neighbors who are in need as part of our commitment to help put this unprecedented situation we are all facing behind us," said Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment.

A short list of the many donations made by the company include the 116,000 pounds of perishable food given by Caesars Entertainment Las Vegas Resorts to Three Square Food Bank, as well as gloves, masks and sanitizers to the city's University Medical Center. Caesars Atlantic City, Bally's Atlantic City and Harrah's Resort Atlantic City have donated more than 40,000 pounds of food to the Community Food Bank of Southern New Jersey, the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and Salvation Army. The company also has donated food not suitable for human consumption to animal rescues in need, such as the Funny Farm in Mays Landing, N.J. Harrah's Resort Southern California gave away more than 8,000 pounds of produce and refrigerated items to the San Diego Food Bank, as well as 805 pounds to the Foundry Escondido; the Horseshoe Tunica Hotel & Casino
donated more than 8,000 pounds of food to the Mid-South Food Bank, Memphis Union Mission and Sacred Heart Mission; and Horseshoe Casino Baltimore has given about 7,500 pounds of food to the Maryland Food Bank and other organizations. 

The Pennsylvania Convention Center and its food-service partner, Aramark, have donated 900 pounds of perishable food items over the past week to Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and the Valley Youth House's Achieving Independence Center for distribution to individuals and families in need.A total of 501 pounds of dairy and produce items were given to Sunday Breakfast, the largest emergency homeless shelter in Philadelphia, and 297 pounds of dairy and produce were provided to Valley Youth House. 

"With so many individuals and families struggling during this difficult time, we wanted to make sure that this food was put to good use,” said Gregory J. Fox Esq., chair of the Pennsylvania Convention Center Authority's board. "Sunday Breakfast Rescue Mission and the Valley Youth House do great work in the local community and we know they will make sure this food gets to those who need it.”

Across Las Vegas, the properties in the MGM Resorts International portfolio have donated 301,000 pounds of food to Three Square Food Bank, providing 251,000 meals to community members in need. Nonperishable food came from multiple MGM Resorts' properties across the Strip, along with bags for the distribution of food and meals. MGM will continue to work with Three Square as well as other food banks throughout the city to manage donation intake and food storage.

MGM's resorts around the country have done the same. Among them, MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md., has worked with partner Nourish Now to contribute 55,000 pounds of food to community nonprofits. In Massachusetts, MGM Springfield has distributed 12,000 pounds to the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Open Pantry Community Services and Friends of the Homeless. More than 25,000 pounds of food from the Beau Rivage in Biloxi, Miss., has been donated to multiple organizations, including Extra Table, Loaves & Fishes, Lord is My Help and the Hancock County Food Pantry. The MGM Grand Detroit has contributed about 15,000 pounds of produce and dairy products to Forgotten Harvest, a food distribution channel. The casino hotel also donated 3,000 gloves to medical professionals in the city.

Atlantic City's Borgata has donated more than 35,000 pounds of food to the Boys and Girls Club of Atlantic County and to the Community Food Bank of New Jersey.

Earlier this month, the larders at the 190-room Park Hyatt Beaver Creek in Colorado were emptied and the food distributed to the ski resort's employees, many of whom are seasonal workers who are losing their jobs as the hotel closes to end this ski year.

"I would first like to express my sincere gratitude for your hard work here at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek that you have done over the last year," general manager Herb Rackliff wrote in an email to his staff. "We as a community are going through a difficult time and we at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek family would like to assist in caring for your family in a way that we can at this time. So we are emptying the food we currently have in our kitchen at Park Hyatt Beaver Creek and giving it to you."

Venues and event hosts needn't worry about such donations carrying any liability. As Jonathan T. Howe, Esq., founding partner of the Howe and Hutton law firm in Chicago, has told Northstar, all organizations that give away leftover meals and ingredients to shelters and food pantries are protected from liability by the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. However, he has cautioned, gross negligence, or products that fail to meet labeling requirements, can invite risk, so only the freshest products should be given away and all foods should note all ingredients to forewarn those with allergies.

Racks of food ready to be picked up from the Raleigh (N.C.) Convention Center
Racks of food ready to be picked up from the Raleigh (N.C.) Convention Center

There's an App for That
Here are some tech tools that help coordinate food donations — now or once your events ramp up again:

The Food Rescue US app helps you coordinate donations in several large cities across the country, including Chicago, Miami and Salt Lake City.

Specifically to address the coronavirus crisis, Goodr, a B-corp that supports a large nonprofit network, has introduced an emergency one-time pick-up option for businesses looking to donate surplus food to a local nonprofit. Supporters also can sponsor a pickup for food donors unable to pay for pickups, allowing Goodr to pay drivers to pick up and deliver items directly to people in need.

For events in California's Bay Area, Copia matches the surplus to a nearby shelter, food pantry or other agency and dispatches drivers to pick up and drop off the food. 

In the North Carolina capital, the Raleigh Convention Center and its Centerplate catering team have turned to the several charities to which they donate year round to help as long as they can. Without the time to strike the food orders for two events that had to cancel early on, the organizers, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and a major entertainment company, suggested and helped coordinate the donation of the meals to local nonprofits. Almost 800 banquet-ready meals were sent out to several local organizations, including Raleigh's Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, which supports the homeless and those who are food-insecure. 

Across the country in Portland, the Oregon Convention Center’s catering partner, Pacificwild Catering, is doing the same. On March 12, Blanchet House, a Northwest Portland nonprofit that offers food, shelter and aid to locals in need, loaded their truck with a large donation from the OCC.

"We had planned for a 600-person plated lunch and a 1,000-person dinner," said Kayla Petsche, Pacificwild's director of sales. "But with the cancellations and food already ordered, we wanted to ensure our community benefited by donating the food to a local meal-provider like Blanchet House." OCC, one of the most sustainable convention facilities in the country, regularly donates to the Blanchet House through a long-running partnership, but Thursday's considerable contribution of fresh food was a welcome surprise.

Both Walt Disney World in Orlando and Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., also have emptied their refrigerators to those in need. A blog post from Thomas Smith, editorial content director for Disney Parks, noted: "To help other Central Floridians in need during this time, Walt Disney World Resort will donate excess food inventory like fresh salads, greens and expertly cooked hot items to the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, as part of the ongoing Disney Harvest program." Even before these unprecedented times, Walt Disney World Resort had been collecting and distributing more than 823,000 pounds of prepared, unserved food each year, supporting Second Harvest’s work serving more than 40 Orlando-area nonprofits. Last year alone, according to Smith, these donations provided 1 million meals to people in need.

Disneyland park and Disney California Adventure park are giving their excess food inventory to Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. The donations will consist of dairy, fruit, vegetables, packaged goods and banquet meals.

Spectra, an international venue management, food services and hospitality company, has been working with its properties across the country to donate extras to local communities or among part-time staff. In many instances, Spectra collaborates with the Food Recovery Network to find the appropriate place for the food donation. For instance:

• The Utah Valley Convention Center delivered all perishables to the Food and Care Coalition of Provo.
• At the Gaillard Center in Charleston, S.C., chef Frank Halasz donated food from a cancelled event to My Sisters House, which provides shelter for women and children who are in abusive relationships. 
• The Owensboro Convention Center in Kentucky donated all produce and dairy products to the local Daniel Pitino and St. Benedict shelters.
• The Atlantic City Convention Center and Boardwalk Hall sent all perishables to the Salvation Army, the AC Rescue Mission and the local Boys Club of America.
Bethel Woods in Bethel, N.Y., dropped off foods at two local fire departments that volunteer there for the summer season. Their "Thank You" banquet to kick off the season was cancelled on Monday. 
• The Ocean Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., has scheduled pickups for community organizations.
• The Columbus Convention & Trade Center in Columbus, Ga., has donated its produce to SafeHouse Ministries.