Bridget Wagner has seen the food left over at the end of the night at events like this weekend’s Ford Arts, Beats & Eats in Royal Oak.

Wagner, the director of marketing for several area Famous Dave’s locations, says the restaurant chain has been a vendor at AB&E for five years. Sometimes, their leftovers get given away to the crowd or crew. Other times, the food goes in the trash.

But at this year’s event, it will be different: For the first time, Famous Dave’s, and most of the 40-plus other restaurants participating at AB&E, will donate food not sold each day to help feed the hungry.

A coordinated food rescue mission between festival organizers, Kroger, Forgotten Harvest and participating restaurants made that happen.

“We decided to donate and put it towards a good cause,” Wagner said.

At the end of each day of the four-day event, volunteers from Forgotten Harvest and AB&E will pick up pans of leftover food and take them to Forgotten Harvest’s on-site refrigerated truck for storage. For example, if a participating restaurant made five trays of macaroni and cheese and sold three, they would donate the untouched two that specific day. In addition to the barbecue Famous Dave’s is expected to serve up, restaurant vendors include those who serve tacos, sliders, pies and other baked goods.

“As a restaurant vendor you try to predict your level of business, but you usually end up with food leftovers,” Wagner said.

Kroger, a long-time sponsor of the festival and creator of the Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative, approached organizers about the idea, said festival producer Jon Witz.

“They challenged us with a meaningful way to support what their goals were,” Witz said.

“We talked about how much food is down there (at the festival),” said Rachel Hurst, Kroger corporate affairs manager, Michigan division. “We are just trying to get creative with what we can do and he (Jon Witz) came out and said ‘What if we donate all the food?’ We couldn’t turn down the opportunity.”

Most restaurants, Witz said, are committed to donating two pans of food at least one night of AB&E. Famous Dave’s, Wagner said, committed to participate for each night.

Witz said they are guaranteeing that they will have a total 200 pans delivered to Forgotten Harvest. To make sure they meet that goal, several restaurants will also prepare food on the Tuesday after the event to be picked up by Forgotten Harvest.

“It’s cool to know that the restaurants are on board,” Hurst says. “We are actually doing something tangible with the food that could go to waste.”

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