Homelessness and the Hospitality Industry Globally

Main Photo: The homeless issue in Australia

Date: December 2019

Location: Global

Name: The Homeless and How Can Hospitality Help?

Who’s Doing What Currently: Australia has Housing All Australians, supported by corporate sponsors, including Quest Apartments who agreed to support Housing All Australians both financially and by providing loose furniture items, while legal firms Norton Rose Fulbright and Chambers & Partners are providing pro-bono legal and accounting advice.

Quest Apartment Hotels Chief Operating Officer, David Mansfield – who will help drive assistance from the whole accommodation industry – said it was in the industry’s best interests to ensure all Australians have a roof over their head, regardless of whether they were rich or poor.

“Our staff are seeing more cases of homelessness in their communities and more have started to raise their concerns. This is a national issue.

“Quest is a family business at its core, so social issues are addressed directly by senior leadership. We cannot wait for government any longer, the private sector needs to work together to provide shelter for all Australians,” Mansfield added.

Housing All Australians was established as a registered Australian charity in 2019 and has already established one pop-up shelter in Melbourne.

The UK has Only a Pavement Away a charity founded by representatives from hospitality, including TV’s (and ex-Galvin’s) Fred Sirieix and supported by Michelin-star chef Tom Kerridge and founder & CEO Greg Mangham, whose aim is to act as a conduit to employment to help those people struggling to get into work, overcome hurdles by finding jobs within the hospitality, pub and restaurant industry, whilst negating the need for people to face an existence of living on the streets.

Outside of the moral benefits, the project is underpinned by a strong commercial and financial benefit whilst reducing the ever-increasing strain on government funding required for those who find themselves in such extreme circumstances.

There are several initiatives run by individual hospitality businesses such as The Hotel School, which teaches hospitality skills to homeless and vulnerable people, matches them to sustainable employment, and supports them in their first steps into work.

Hotel School is a joint venture between The Passage (London’s largest voluntary sector homeless resource centre) and The Goring Hotel. It is supported by London’s Five Star hotel community, Westminster Kingsway catering school staff, and over 50 local businesses – a true coming together of the community.

The major hotel chains have a general community and inclusion policy, but we would like to hear of those that have a specific homelessness policy, or activity at chain level. Marriott are sponsors of the Movement to Work which appears to be aimed more at getting young people into work, rather than homeless folks.

How else might Hospitality assist the cause? Food clearly goes to waste in huge proportions in hotels, but health and safety probably have strict guidelines that must be obeyed…can we find a way round this?

Back in 2015, as food waste was an increasingly pressing issue for chefs like New York’s Dan Barber, who started cooking with otherwise discarded food and set up wastED as a two-week pop-up restaurant…..check out where that’s at now

….and in the UK, a Brighton food co-operative started making kombucha and mango wine from rejected fruit. So far, their only waste product is yeast, and they plan to cultivate one of the UK’s first “food forests”. Nick Godshaw and Tom Daniell started the Brighton cooperative, Old Tree Brewery.

The brewery makes drinks using foraged ingredients, with the aim of investing profits into sustainable agriculture. Their then offerings include classic ginger beers and pink lemonades, as well as green tea kombucha, nettle iced tea and elderflower cider.

“We get fruit from a whole load of places. We’ve struck a deal with a greengrocer who supplies stores in Brighton and London,” explains Godshaw. “At the end of the week, we get his surplus stock that otherwise would end up in the bin.”

Godshaw and Daniell have built up a network of farmers and suppliers from which they source their ingredients, intercepting the produce before it ends up in the bin.

And they have a wealth of waste to choose from. According to government statistics, the UK throws away 7 million tonnes of food every year. Food is discarded even before the onions rot in that tray at the bottom of the fridge or furry bits sprout on your plums. In the manufacturing of food products and within the wholesale and retail market, around 4.3 mega-tonnes of food ends up in the bin each year—the equivalent of 573,000 London buses.

The Leeds-based Real Junk Food project works with a network of volunteers to serve meals made entirely from salvaged food, and the number of people “skipping”—or raiding bins for food discarded by shops—is on the up. In 2014, the House of Lords produced a report on the cost of food waste in the EU on the subject, claiming that “a tonne of food wasted in food manufacturing in the UK is estimated to have a value of at least £950.”

Then Montreal-based site La Tablée des Chefs started connecting hotels and caterers with local shelters to provide a safe way for surplus food to be given to those in need. Munchies online magazine spoke with the site’s founder, Jean-François Archambault, about the logistics of running something like this.

“The food recovery program started when I was in hotel management school. We were preparing so much food and they threw away a lot of it because there were only 20 students, but we were practising to cook for 80 to 100 people. The rest of the food was always thrown away, and it didn’t make sense.

After that, I was in the hotels and worked the banquets as the assistant maître d’—and after that I was in sales selling the banquets packages. We’d walk the floors and see the clients and the banquets with the buffets and coffee stations. Twenty-five to 35 percent of the food would be thrown away. I worked at four-star, five-star properties and at those places, the kitchen staff would always fill the buffet at the end. So the last person who gets to the buffet would have the same choices of four, five sandwiches and salads as the first guy. There are those guidelines and expectations that generates a food surplus, so I was seeing all that food at the end. It didn’t make sense.

When did it all start? I launched it in a pilot phase in 2003, but in 2005 we really kicked it off with the Bell Centre, where the Montreal Canadiens play. It’s the largest food outlet in the city and feeds some 20,000 people. There are 134 executive suites and we recover all the food from there. It’s not hot dogs and pizzas—it’s good food like lamb chops, couscous, and pasta. We get that food and safely put it in containers and they pick it up the next day. After a typical game we can feed anywhere from 700 to 900 people.

We’re like a broker that matches the hotels with these shelters, which need either a refrigerated truck to carry the food, or be really close to the hotel. A chef would create a profile of the type of food he’s recovering (saving) and sets up how much food that he needs to get rid of each week. We send them aluminium containers, bags for bread and baked goods, and plastic containers for liquids.

Once they’re connected with a shelter, the shelter gets a calendar of pickups, the hotel address, the chef’s name, and the frequency of the recovery. On the day of the pickup, they go back on the site to report how much food they got, so the hotel knows how much food they recovered.

A common hotel will recover anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 meals a year. Now we have [about] 60 organisations. We also work with caterers, but more with larger events where they go in and do a punctual pickup.

THPT Comment: We would like to hear from our readers as to other initiatives you are aware of that can help end the disgrace of the 21st century that is homelessness ….maybe a bridge too far for most, but how about we find a way of using otherwise empty beds to house homeless people on a nightly basis!

First Seen: Vice magazine

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