For many of us, leftovers offer a break from cooking another dinner. But for local food pantries and regional food banks, and families experiencing food insecurity throughout Southern California, leftovers from Disney mean so much more.
To Ralph , Chef De Cuisine at Disneyland Resort, leftovers are a way to give back to folks in need and a source of pride in his team’s community support.
“For our Disney kitchens to support this effort and help feed our neighbors, it means so much to us,” said Ralph, a Disney cast member for more than 26 years, “When you hear about neighbors struggling with things like homelessness and food insecurity, it really hits home. If we have a little left over from a restaurant here, a little excess product from a banquet there – the food can really add up. You realize that every little bit helps.”
From little bits of fresh produce and vegetables to large amounts of meats such as full turkeys, excess food items are separated and packaged at the end of the day by Ralph’s team and food service cast members in kitchens throughout Disneyland Resort. The combined items are frozen, refrigerated or collected to safely store for collection by partner pantries and food banks.
“Since we began the donation program [nearly 10 years ago], we’ve come up with a pretty efficient system so everything is weighed, labeled and stored correctly,” said Ralph. “We treat all the protein, produce and other donations with the same care and safety we use for serving our guests.”
“These leftovers added up to more than 90,000 meals to the Orange County community in 2021 alone. During the temporary closure of Disney theme parks and hotels due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney donated more than $17.1 million worth of food from March 2020 through the end of FY21 to hunger-relief organizations supporting communities globally – the equivalent of more than 2.1 million meals.”
A longtime supporter of Disney’s food donation program, Ralph had the opportunity to visit Second Harvest as part of a chef teambuilding activity. With his decades of food service experience at Disney, Ralph has served countless resort and banquet guests. But this experience in serving his neighbors made a unique impression.
“We were all so impressed by their operation and inspired by the way they’re filling the need,” said Ralph. “Food service work is strenuous and at the end of the day, you can feel kind of beat – like you just want to get home. But we all really want to ensure this stuff is getting to families and people who need it. Knowing that is so rewarding.”