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Every day, Las Vegas buffets literally prepare tons of food.
And for years, many leftovers have gone to a pig farm north of the Las Vegas. But a lot of food made on the Strip never reaches the buffet line.
Because there is a growing number of people experiencing hunger in Nevada, much of that untouched food will be going to them.
Three Square Food Bank and MGM Resorts International are spearheading the effort.
“This is food that has never made it to the buffet,” Phyllis James with MGM Resorts International told KNPR's State of Nevada.
She explained that the food the is being "rescued" is from conventions and large meetings. James explained the chefs prepare food for the groups, but often not everyone who is expected shows up.
“As a result of the no-shows, primarily, there is a lot of food that is never even taken out of the hot box that the chefs prepared in the event that its needed,” she said.
The pilot program started in 2016 and since then MGM Resorts has rescued 115,000 pounds of food, which translated into 86,000 meals.
For several years, casinos along the Strip have called Three Square Food Bank to donate leftover food from large events, but this new program is different. It's not a one-off, but a system that is now part of MGM Resorts convention and meeting procedures, James explained.
She said it is part of the company's mission to help the community and it wanted to eliminate waste.
“We found that unserved banquet food was a stream of waste that we thought we could do something with if we figured out a way to get is safely to our partner Three Square and then preserve it safely,” she said.
Brian Burton is the CEO of Three Square Food Bank. He said the food safety procedures have made the program possible.
The food is temperature checked several times from when it leaves an MGM property to when it arrives at the charity. Burton said they then flash freeze it and distribute it to partners like Catholic Charities.
Burton said Three Square usually receives "shelf staples" in donations, which is always appreciated, but the food from banquet services allows for another level of food.
“This raises it into a whole other level of beautiful proteins, healthy gourmet-type of food that is being consumed now by people who often times live on the ragged rim of our city,” he said.
MGM Resorts is giving a grant to Three Square that will provide 800,000 meals over the next two to three years.
“This is a moment, I think, where everybody could come and look at the whole system and the whole stream and really make a sustaining difference for years and decades to come,” Burton said.
Brian Burton, CEO, Three Square Food Bank; Phyllis James, chief diversity and corporate responsibility officer, MGM