Canceled wedding becomes banquet for homeless

After finding out that the groom-to-be got cold feet, a Sacramento family decides to keep their banquet reservation but invite a different group of guests. 

A groom gets cold feet, but this isn’t just a tragic love story.

Instead of calling off their daughter's $35,000 wedding, the Duanes decided to keep the reception. But it wasn’t the original 120 guests who came Saturday – it was Sacramento’s homeless population.

When 27-year-old Quinn Duane called her mother to tell her that her wedding wasn’t happening, Kari Duane was shocked. It was supposed to be beautiful banquet at Sacramento’s Citizen Hotel, overlooking the city skyline, and the deposits had already been paid. So she did what she thought was the right thing to do: She invited the city’s homeless to a free, extravagant meal.

“When I found out on Monday that the wedding would not be taking place, it just seemed like, of course, this would be something that we would do to give back,” Kari Duane tells KCRA News.

The first to arrive was a woman who lives in a shelter for those who can’t afford rent but are too old to work. Then, more came. The room began to be filled with children, individuals, families, even newborns.

The menu included salad, cauliflower, gnocchi, salmon, and tri-tip, similar to the food served at the hotel’s four-star restaurant, The Grange. According to one homeless guest, it certainly beat the food prepared at homeless shelters. As of July, there are about 2,600 living without a home in Sacramento, based on a count by volunteers.

“I think it’s very generous actually to lose out on something so important to yourself and then give it to someone else,” says Erika Craycraft, a homeless woman who came with her husband and five children.

The meal was a joyful occasion from their typical endeavor to serve three meals a day.

“When you’re going through a hard time and a struggle, for you get out to do something different with your family, it’s really a blessing,” Craycraft’s husband, Rashad Abdullah, says.  

Quinn Duane, the would-be bride, did not attend, instead opting to stay home with her friends. On Sunday, she and her mother will go to Belize on what would have been her honeymoon.

Accordingly to the US Department of Agriculture, nearly 30 percent of all households experience some degree of food insecurity, meaning they’ve had trouble or were uncertain of acquiring enough food for every member because of money and other resources.

Meanwhile, about 40 percent, or $165 billion worth, of food ends up in landfills uneaten – fresh, edible food that ends up rotting in the trash. In addition to local and federal policy that would implement programs to curb food waste and clarify the misconception that the produce sell-by date is not an expiration date, businesses could audit their practices and find ways to reduce wasting food.

For instance, the grocery chain Stop and Shop was able to save $100 million every year after a comprehensive analysis of their practices in storing and selling perishable products. One of their most important findings was that overstocked displays, a marketing tactic to attract customers, lead to spoilage and waste.

In the US, only about 10 percent of edible wasted food is recovered each year. While Quinn nurtures her broken heart, the Duanes were able to participate in this vastly overlooked sector of social work. But instead of calling out to the homeless directly, there are food recovery organizations that distribute and transport uneaten food to those in need, no canceled weddings necessary.

Feeding Forward, for instance, is an online service that picks up surplus food and delivers it to nearby shelters. Likewise, the Gleaning Network under the Society of St. Andrews gathers subpar crops that would be left unharvested and transports them to pantries and other food agencies.

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