The Las Vegas that most visitors see is glittering and opulent, a city where there seems to be more than enough of everything – especially food. But as a lavish banquet lunch is being served to 1,300 people attending a convention at the Aria hotel, away from the Vegas strip, the dining room at Catholic Charities serves those who don't have enough food, reports CBS News' John Blackstone.
"There's probably more food consumed in Las Vegas per capita than any other place in the world. In here, we serve 1,000 people every day in this kitchen," said Catholic Charities CEO Deacon Tom Roberts. "The numbers, frankly, are astounding."
Since 2007, much of the leftover food from MGM properties has been used to feed pigs. While a better use of the leftovers may be to feed people, getting it to those in need is not without challenges.
"The process to collect surplus banquet food is complicated. But we think it's something worth figuring out," said Yalmaz Siddiqui, vice president of sustainability for MGM Resorts.
It's complicated because food safety regulations require leftover banquet food be delivered immediately for safe consumption. MGM Resorts has found a way to keep the excess food safe for much longer. As soon as a banquet is finished, food that has been prepared but not served is transferred and loaded onto a truck from Las Vegas food bank Three Square.
Once it arrives there, the leftovers are flash frozen in a high-tech refrigeration unit called a blast chiller and moved to the freezer. The food can be saved for up to three months and sent when needed to places like the Catholic Charities dining room.
"This program is absolutely going to help reduce food insecurity in this city at scale," Siddiqui said. He says MGM hopes other businesses will follow their example.
"This program is one that we believe in," Siddiqui said. "One of the things we get out of this program is the ability to tell our major convention clients that we are doing this." They say the program could help divert one million pounds of food by 2020 to feed the hungry.
When life turned bad for Andy Hustak a few months ago, he arrived at the Catholic Charities dining room with $6 in his pocket.
"I hadn't eaten in two days. Never been hungrier in my life. When I came in here I got a hot meal, I got a bunk, I got a shower," he said through tears. "But the next day I got involved in the program and as they say, the rest is history."
What isn't needed in a hotel banquet room can help change lives when it's served to someone who does need it.