Firekeepers Casino Hotel Recognized Nationally by EPA With Food Recovery Challenge Award

Battle Creek, Mich. — Creating and implementing innovative best practices to prevent and reduce food waste, the FireKeepers Casino Hotel Food and Beverage team has been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a 2019 Food Recovery Challenge National Award.  Just one of 15 national winners of this prestigious honor, FireKeepers was identified for making significant progress in reducing food waste in America. 

“Food Recovery Challenge participants are leaders in showing how preventing food waste and diverting excess wholesome food to people is an environmental win and a cost-saving business decision,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Their accomplishments serve as excellent examples to other companies, governments, organizations and communities.”

FireKeepers wide range of efforts include the purchase of blast chillers to reclaim food from the buffet and banquet events, as the food had been prepared and not served.  This food is then repackaged and distributed to those in need in the community. The amount of food diverted through FireKeepers donation efforts in 2018 totaled 4.02 tons. That number continues to rise through employee education and awareness.  FireKeepers also works with area food banks to prevent waste through the Fresh Food Initiative (FFI). FireKeepers and the South Michigan Food Bank partner to provide an average of four FFI events each month. At these events, fresh produce is distributed to neighbors in need. To prevent produce from being wasted, the FireKeepers Team develops easy recipes using the produce distributed and provides samples to encourage clients to utilize all the items they receive.  In addition, the development of a greenhouse on local tribal land has generated fresh food which is being utilized to provide free salad bars in local schools. 

“This is the culmination of a plan to simultaneously create a successful restaurant product while also helping the community in an impactful way. It has been incredible to see our team members embrace this initiative and to continually get involved, greatly increasing numbers year after year,” stated Michael McFarlen, Vice President of Food and Beverage at FireKeepers Casino Hotel. 

Food waste is the single largest type of waste thrown away each year.  Food waste adversely impacts the economy, our communities and the environment by wasting the resources used to grow and transport food. Far too many US households had difficulty providing enough food for all of their family members. Hungry people in need would benefit from the redirection of nutritious, wholesome food that would have otherwise been thrown away.

The Covid-19 pandemic has presented the nation with a vivid image of the food shortages so many people face.   Therefore, efforts like those implemented by FireKeepers to reduce food waste and ensure excess food doesn’t go to waste are needed now more than ever. The innovation these EPA award winners are showcasing can also serve as an example as the nation works together to address this public health emergency. Over 1,000 businesses, governments and organizations participated in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge in 2019. Participants prevented or diverted over 815,000 tons of food from entering landfills or incinerators, saving participants up to $42.3 million in avoided landfill tipping fees.