John Buschman has worked in hospitality management and academia for decades. As a faculty member at the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University (FIU), he got involved with the South Beach Food & Wine Festival as a logistics coordinator. While supervising the vehicles coming and going from the beach he noticed a box truck for Daily Bread Food Bank, now Feeding South Florida. The driver informed him that he was there to pick up excess food to take to a soup kitchen.
Having spent his career in large hotels and tourism, John knew how much extra food is prepared for large events, is never served and is often discarded as waste. John reached out to Feeding South Florida and developed a plan to begin a more complex food rescue effort at the next South Beach Food & Wine Festival, which now generates an average of 25,000 meals for those in need each year. Afterwards, John moved on to other large events and trade shows building on his success. He has worked to educate convention centers, hotels, meeting and event planners and caterers about food rescue, addressing food safety and handling concerns as well as environmental and sustainability issues.
John started making regular trips to the Orlando area to visit and care for an elderly uncle. On one visit he stopped at Second Harvest Food Bank and was thrilled to learn that our operations and volunteer teams also make a concerted effort to rescue food from large events and trade shows. He shared some of his experiences and expertise with our team and began planning his visits around food rescue events in Orlando.
On a recent visit in October, John was part of Second Harvest Food Bank’s volunteer team that rescued food from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association trade show at the Orange County Convention Center. The team distributed orange “Hold for Food Rescue” stickers for vendors to place on items to be donated. At the close of the show, the group dispersed in pairs walking each aisle with flatbed carts to collect boxes, trays and packages of food ranging from fresh prepped food that wasn’t served, to unopened boxes and cans. John recalls looking under table skirting to find unopened bags of tortillas which would have otherwise ended up in the trash. The one hour effort yielded 1,699 pounds to help feed hungry kids, families and seniors in Central Florida.
In his academic life, John is pursuing research in social welfare as a doctoral candidate at FIU’s Robert Stempel College of Health and Social Work. His dissertation research is evaluating the effectiveness of community food assessments based on research data from Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap project. In his teaching, John talks about food insecurity while engaging his students in food recovery, banking and distribution all over Florida and beyond. Besides Feeding South Florida, where he and his class were named “Ultimate Hunger Heroes” in 2015, his students have also volunteered at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, Feeding Tampa Bay, Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida and Three Square Food Bank in Las Vegas, inspiring the next generation of food rescuers.