Over a coffee meeting to introduce myself to the CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend last winter, a casual conversation led to brainstorming what would become a nine-week summer pilot project called Workforce Wednesday.
As the director of Workforce Development for Visit Central Oregon, one of my focus areas is working to cultivate the region’s talent pipeline. A challenge that goes hand-in-hand with this is the misperception that tourism jobs are low-pay, high-churn roles that aren’t viable career paths. So, you can imagine the excitement when presented with an opportunity to help young people understand this is not the case.
#WorkforceWednesday is a program geared toward middle school-aged youth that gives them opportunities to learn about career paths in the tourism industry. For Visit Central Oregon the goal of this project was to work with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend to design field trips to tourism-related businesses that would be fun, educational, hands-on and memorable. We wanted the experiences to be unexpected — to highlight diverse careers that would spark interest.
I’m sure the first thing some might think is: Why middle-schoolers? Admittedly, this age group is largely not of a legal age to enter the workforce. But they are the prime age to inspire. As an emerging workforce, this cohort can develop an understanding of how their passions and interests can lead to jobs and career paths they’d never considered. This inspiration can stay with them as they continue through school, think about their first summer job, and make decisions about college and beyond.
The program included a trip to Drake Park with the Visit Bend team to learn about digital marketing and the economic value of tourism. The kids got to participate in a photo shoot — everything from style and layout, to finding the perfect shot and posting an Instagram reel.
Next up was a trip to Humm Kombucha to learn all about the art of brewing craft beverages (that they are old enough to drink!). Kids witnessed everything that goes into the kombucha-making process and got to help create their own signature batch.
The following week, the group met with Cog Wild, which gave participants an overview of tour operator/outfitter business operations, and the importance of developing and maintaining local trail systems, followed by a mountain bike ride.
From there, the kids met with REI, Saxon’s Fine Jewelers, The Stacks Art Studios & Gallery, and Regal Cinemas in the Old Mill District to learn about high-volume business operations in one of the most popular shopping areas in Bend.
Last but not least, the students made their way to Santiam Snolab, where they were immersed in the business operations of a local maker, and got to collaboratively design and build their own custom snowboard and set of downhill skis.
"Programs like this are a tangible way to start educating and inspiring future workforce that will be critical to sustaining a thriving tourism industry."
Bess Goggins, the CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Bend observed incredible engagement from the kids — as the summer went on, the kids’ genuine curiosity and interest increased exponentially. Kids that would have otherwise stayed home were opting into the program to participate. One parent noted that their child “did so many fun things that we would never have been able to do at home” and that they had “one of the best summers to date and came home every week with a positive experience to share.”
The program was such an incredible success that there are conversations to expand it into the school year across other industries and sectors. Talks are also underway to continue the #WorkforceWednesday program next summer with a hospitality and tourism lens once more.
I especially love the #WorkforceWednesday program because it is something that other destinations can replicate.
Workforce development can be daunting — but programs like this are a tangible way to start educating and inspiring future workforce that will be critical to sustaining a thriving tourism industry. | Jaime Eder
This guest blog was submitted by Jaime Eder, Director, Workforce Development and Community Engagement for Visit Central Oregon, and originally published in The Bend Bulletin.
App-based tools are helping divert food waste and provide meals to the hungry.
Do you ever wonder what happens to the leftover supermarket rotisserie chickens at the end of the day? Or all those everything bagels in the case at closing time? Or the extra macaroni and cheese, collard greens, cornbread and other sides at your local barbecue chain?
Unfortunately, much of this perfectly edible food probably goes to waste; more than one-third of the food produced in the U.S. is not consumed, according to the EPA’s 2021 report, Farm to Kitchen: The Environmental Impacts of U.S. Food Waste. The environmental impact of one year of food waste is staggering—it uses the same water and energy as 50 million homes and emits the equivalent level of greenhouse gases as those generated by 42 coal-fired plants. Meanwhile, nearly 34 million people—including 5 million children—are grappling with food insecurity in the U.S.
But there are multiple players deploying technology to help disrupt this waste chain. These tech-powered companies and nonprofit groups are using app-based tools that connect to virtual dashboards to match unwanted food and grocery items from restaurants, corporate cafeterias and supermarkets with community-based groups that feed the hungry. The dashboard allows a restaurant owner, chef or manager to upload what food is available, along with delivery or cooking instructions and shelf life, and a nonprofit partner to claim the item. Depending on the service, the app can dispatch a third-party service driver or volunteer within a specified time frame to ensure the food is viable after delivery.
“Much food waste occurs because of confusion over labeling,” says Suzannah Paul, director of Philly Food Rescue (PFR), which is part of the Share Food Program, a regional food bank and hunger relief organization. “Best-by, use-by, sell-by, and even marked expiration dates are not true safety indicators or real expiration dates, except in the case of infant formula.”
The USDA and EPA have set an ambitious goal of slashing food waste by 50% by 2030. Reducing or eliminating food waste “presents opportunities to increase food security, foster productivity and economic efficiency, promote resource and energy conservation, and address climate change,” according to the EPA. Can this technology remove a key barrier to alleviating this food waste crisis?
Serving a tech solution
Founded by entrepreneur Jasmine Crowe in 2017, Goodr takes a holistic view of waste—it partners with major food service companies like Compass, Aramark, and Sodexo, hotel chains like IHG, and other food industry clients in more than 30 cities around the country to manage and process their food waste—whether through donations and other “hunger relief solutions,” or services like waste management and organic composting.
For the Atlanta-based B Corp., dealing with food waste is a matter of “logistics,” according to Ryan Moore, senior partnerships manager. Their tier of services “allows for businesses to get rid of any food scraps—things they prepare food with, anything that’s leftover and not eaten on a plate,” Moore says.
A recent transport coordinated by Goodr consisted of 17 trays of cooked chicken, pork, potatoes and green beans. Using its dashboard-based system, Goodr was able to quickly get the food to a nonprofit behavioral healthcare agency called Homeward Bound in Dallas.
With the organization providing 70 to 100 people with three meals a day, the timing couldn’t have been better. “Having the meals already cooked was great because, like everyone else, we are having trouble finding staff,” says Christine Wicker, Homeward Bound’s director of development.
Data: the crucial ingredient
Describing its mission as “for profit, for good,” Goodr says it has been able to scale quickly because it’s a business. It claims a community and environmental impact of facilitating 30 million meals, diverting 3 million pounds of food from landfills and preventing 6.2 million carbon emissions. Businesses pay a monthly fee based on the number of scheduled pickups and can claim a tax deduction for food they donate. In 2022, Goodr nearly tripled its staff, going from 13 workers in July to about 35 by the end of the year.
“We would not be able to do this without being in the time of technology,” Moore says. “The popularity of Uber and other apps allows Goodr to do this. We leverage ride-share companies to do what we do—the majority of our pickups are drivers that are already in transit. There’s no middleman, so we can make sure the food doesn’t end up in the landfill.”
For Goodr, data analysis plays a key role not only in matching available food with the right recipient but also in helping donors better understand the demand for their products or menu items—and how to reduce waste.
Several years ago, for example, one of Goodr’s bagel clients was tossing 200 bagels a day. After just three months of tracking, they were able to cut the amount by more than half. Another customer operated a corporate cafeteria and, through the metrics on their Goodr dashboard, determined that three of their five most-wasted products featured pork. As a result, they retooled the menu to better reflect their audience preferences.
For overburdened chefs, the ability to donate unused food has provided an incentive for them to track their data more carefully. “Our goal is to show clients, ‘You’re wasting this much food, and this is what you’re wasting,'” Moore says. “It’s going to allow them to be better at not wasting food. If you add an incentive that you can donate it to local nonprofits and help your community, that’s a whole new incentive for companies that have tried tracking in the past where it hasn’t worked.”
Protections for good Samaritans
For some restaurants and food businesses, liability concerns may prevent them from donating food—if someone gets sick, they don’t want to be held responsible, or so the conventional wisdom goes.
However, several federal laws shield them from liability. The 1996 Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act offers federal protection from liability of any food donated for free “in good faith.” A newly enacted law—the Food Donation Improvement Act—further exempts from liability donors who provide food at a so-called “good Samaritan reduced price” (basically at cost) and also allows them to donate directly to “food insecure individuals” rather than have to use a nonprofit partner. According to Paul, the Good Samaritan Act “never had any agency offering clarification, so some brands do feel safer throwing good food away. And unfortunately, it’s sometimes given as an excuse for inaction,” Paul says.
To err on the safe side, Philly Food Rescue recommends that all rescued food be distributed, eaten or frozen within 24 hours. “We do quality checks on items in our warehouse and set expectations with food donors about what kinds of donations are appropriate to send out to our partners,” Paul says. “Our partners know the food is still good to eat and won’t be good for long.”
But the best outcome is to avoid food waste as much as possible. While food stores and businesses have their own metrics to follow for generating—and managing—waste, the consumer plays a role, too. That should be food for thought the next time you tap your pizza delivery app for a two-for-one pizza delivery deal when you might only need one pie, RSVP to a business luncheon but don’t stay to eat, or pass over a gallon of milk at the supermarket with a short “sell by” date. | By Robert DiGiacomo
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Ashley Espinoza
Lane Workforce Partnership
Telephone: (541) 913-2284
Lane Workforce Partnership, Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board, Northwest Oregon Works, Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association Secure Department of Labor Grant to Elevate Coastal Hospitality Sector
Lane Workforce Partnership (LWP), in collaboration with Southwestern Oregon Workforce Investment Board (SOWIB), Northwest Oregon Works (NOW), Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA), and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association (OCVA) is proud to announce their successful joint application for a Department of Labor Critical Jobs Sector Planning Grant, totaling $446,786. This grant represents a significant step towards addressing the unique workforce needs of the Oregon coast’s vital hospitality sector, which is projected to generate nearly 40,000 jobs by 2031.
Critical to the programmatic goals of this partnership are the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association and the Oregon Coast Visitors Association. These two organizations have extensive networks within the coastal hospitality industry, along with significant institutional experience that forms a strong foundation for the sector partnership. ORLA and OCVA are pivotal in facilitating partnerships within the tourism-driven hospitality sector, and they will serve as primary collaborators for aggregating travel data and identifying industry trends. Moreover, they will leverage their extensive networks to enhance business engagement in our surveys and outreach initiatives aimed at bolstering the hospitality industry.
“The Critical Jobs Sector Planning Grants will enable recipients to create and expand partnerships to develop training programs to provide the workforce needed in high-demand industries,” noted Brent Parton, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training.
The coastal hospitality sector plays a pivotal role in the lives and livelihoods of Oregon coast residents. However, despite its crucial importance to the region’s economic prosperity, there currently lacks an industry sector partnership dedicated to effectively gathering, evaluating, and supporting both workers and businesses within this sector. Recognizing this gap, LWP, SOWIB, NOW, ORLA, and OCVA have come together to launch an initiative that will lay the foundation for a sustainable Coastal Hospitality Industry Sector. A key element in ensuring the success of this initiative is partnering with local stakeholders, essential partners, and industry experts.
Initial steps will involve the joint procurement of a Sector Strategist through collaboration with hospitality industry associations. Over the grant period, the Sector Strategist, alongside our partners, will embark on the following initiatives:
This initiative will specifically benefit a diverse range of demographics, including residents of rural communities, unemployed and underemployed adults, youth, immigrants, communities of color, and returning citizens. This collaboration will prioritize inclusivity and address the unique challenges faced by these groups while promoting equitable access to opportunities.
“We are excited to embark on this critical initiative, which will not only enhance the Oregon coast hospitality sector but also create avenues for economic opportunity for individuals and communities throughout the region,” stated Ashley Espinoza, Executive Director of Lane Workforce Partnership. “This grant represents an investment in the future of our coastal economies and underscores our commitment to fostering sustainable growth.”
Click here for further information about the grant, including a full list of recipients.
Conference Recap / Grant Opportunities / Inspection Fees / Member Benefits
ORLA wrapped up another successful Hospitality Conference with two full days of programming at the Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites. Over 250 industry members connected with peers, learned new best practices, and helped celebrate some of the outstanding members of our industry. In case you missed it, check out some of the visuals captured during the event as well as for our Awards program:
Tillamook County Marketing and Facilities Grants Open October 1
Tillamook County businesses and organizations that could use financial support for marketing and/or facility improvements should look into the five Tillamook Coast Visitors Association grants opening October 1. To apply for TCVA’s facilities or marketing grants, or Manzanita’s marketing grant, visit www.tillamookcoast.com/grants. For more information on Rockaway’s marketing and facilities grants, go to www.visitrockawaybeach.org/grants. For additional questions, contact TCVA Finance and Grant Manager Marni Johnston at 503-842-2672, ext. 3.
Multnomah County Inspection Fees: ORLA Takes Action
The Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association (ORLA) is monitoring a Multnomah County staff proposal to increase fees by 6% to recover the costs of administering county inspections and licensing of specific categories of food, pool and tourist/traveler facilities. ORLA Government Affairs Coordinator Makenzie shared the following update:
New Allied Partnerships to Benefit Members
ORLA Director of Business Development Marla McColly has been working behind the scenes to secure new Hospitality Partnerships for ORLA members this past month with GigSmart and Ubiquity. Visit our website for more information and the member benefit offers they have. In addition, SKECHERS Direct discount is outlined in their listing on our website found in the Buyer’s Guide / Coupons and Discounts (along with many other special deals!). This is just one way we can provide ROI for members and help them save money.
ORLA keeps members informed and educated with the latest information, industry intelligence and research via several channels. In addition to the blog, members receive more comprehensive insights via the monthly Insider e-newsletter and access to the Member Portal with data and research.
Not a member yet? Visit our Membership page or reach out the ORLA Regional Representative nearest you.
Learn from local chefs and managers how to set up a successful compost program
All businesses and commercial kitchens generating more than one 60-gallon roll cart of food scraps per week in the Metro region will be required to separate their food scraps and keep them out of the landfill by composting, donation or upstream prevention practices.
How to set up compost
Hear how The Old Spaghetti Factory set up food scrap collection. General Manager Gary Shepard shares how they:
He explained that he was hesitant at first but found they were able to compost without any inconvenience or additional labor, and that staff supported it almost instantly. Watch the 2.5 min video*
Compost tips from an experienced Chef
Providence Milwaukie Hospital’s Grapevine Café has been composting since 2012. Executive Chef Martin Pedersen shares how they:
Chef Pedersen also talks about the benefits and positive staff and customer response. Watch the 2 minute video*
Find opportunities to trim waste
Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington Square hotel found that separating food scraps helped them find ways to reduce food waste and save thousands of dollars a month. General Manager Scott Youngblood and Executive Chef Scott Hensley share how they:
Once you start collecting food waste, you can more easily tell what is frequently wasted each day. Knowing this might help you reduce how much of certain foods you order and prepare, which can lower your purchasing costs and cut prep time. Visit FoodWasteStopsWithMe.org to learn more about the food scraps separation policy and/or to request assistance from a food waste reduction specialist.
SHARE YOUR STORY!
Does your business have a successful donation program going? Share your experience to inspire other companies to follow in your footsteps! Click here and submit your Success Story - we can’t wait to hear from you!
Food Waste Stops with Me is a collaboration between Metro, the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and city and county governments to help food service businesses reduce food waste.
*All videos have Closed Captions/Subtitles option for the following languages: Spanish, Vietnamese, Simplified Chinese, Russian and English