Waste not, want not! Chicago-based wedding and event planner Kristin Anderson had been working in the industry for approximately eight years when she realized that there was a great, easy way for her to turn weddings into a charitable event.
“Two years ago, a past employee, Alan Solowski, came up with the idea [to donate leftover wedding food] one night after we were cleaning up at the end of a wedding,” Anderson, 37, tells The Knot. “‘Why let all this food go to waste?’ he said. ‘Why don’t we donate it to people that need it?’ I absolutely was onboard with the idea, [and] I thought, ‘What an amazing opportunity for us as a team to give back to the community together.”
Anderson, who runs Weddings & Events by Kristin with a team of two other women, Kristin Allen and Gibson Capua, then set about putting the idea into motion, figuring out the logistics first and then getting her brides and grooms on-board second.
“In the last two years, I have researched FDA food laws, got my food handler’s license, got a refrigerator for my house and a cooler and thermometers to regulate cooling temps,” she says of the first steps. “My catering companies usually give me a heads up if they think we will have leftovers so I can make sure I have enough space in my fridge and vehicle.”
One thing that she’s learned over the years, she adds, is that the amount of leftovers is largely dictated by what kind of wedding reception the bride and groom host.
“We usually have leftovers from buffet, family style, and station-type weddings,” she says. “Plated meals are usually exact to the number so that results in not as many leftovers. After the meals are served, we’ll package up the leftovers and then place them in the refrigerator at the venue until we leave. Once we leave, we place the food in my cooler in the car and I place it in my refrigerator at home. Then, the next day, I deliver it to one of the shelters or churches I’ve been working with. In the last two years, we have fed over 1,600 people. It’s an amazing thing and I hope to continue to see our numbers grow.”
Anderson says she’s been pleasantly surprised by how enthusiastic her clients are when she asks them if they would be interested in donating their leftover wedding food. “They are so excited and shocked that we would go above and beyond to donate their food so it won’t go to waste,” she says. “They said they pay a lot of money for the food, and so the leftovers might as well go to people in need. … Some venues are even donating extra food too.”
It’s these aspect of her job that she loves the most and gives her an added purpose to her work, she says.
“Donating the food has been life-changing for me,” Anderson muses. “It made me realize we all take things for granted and need to be a little more aware of people in need. During my drop-off to a shelter, there was one instance that really changed this experience for me and made me work harder to get food donations—we made a drop-off to a battered women and children’s shelter and there were kids there who never saw mashed potatoes before.”
“They were so excited and kept asking for more,” she concludes. “[It] touched my heart seeing them enjoy the little things that we take for granted. … Wedding and event planning is very challenging at times and a lot of work goes into each and every detail to make sure my clients’ day is perfect. But the end result is what makes me coming back for more. I absolutely love my job and making my clients happy and for them to have the best day of their lives!”