Coming Soon…PCC Nutritional Facts

 

Blog Post Contributed by: Julia DeCecco, Dietetics Student at the University of Delaware

No Small Feat – Julia Crunching the Numbers to Generate Nutrition Facts

Since way, way back in 2009, Philadelphia Catering Company has been my summer job. From working in the office on our website, to the back room packing orders, to customer event sites as a server, I’ve always been able to put my skills to work as I progressed through middle school and high school.

In my junior year of high school, through a wild mess of AP classes, SATs and college visits, I found my passion – nutrition. It started with eating better and progressed into a love for healthy food, cooking and fitness. Before I knew it, I was off to University of Delaware to study nutrition and dietetics. As my knowledge of health and nutrition expanded through my lectures and labs, I began to crave more than just learning – I wanted hands-on experience. And that’s where I found my latest project for Philadelphia Catering: compiling the nutrition facts for all the items on the menu.  However, my already seemingly extensive nutrition knowledge didn’t mean calculating nutrition was easy. Sure, I had experience tracking food, and I had a pretty general knowledge for how many calories are in this, how much fat is in that, etc. But starting from scratch was a whole different story. How will we organize the data? How much butter is actually in the French toast? How do you convert liquid ounces to weight ounces? Do the calories in a marinade get cooked off or do they factor in? How much ham is in the ham and swiss sandwich? And don’t even get me started on how to work excel…. the bottom line was there was a lot on our plate (pun intended). But, with a lot of time, effort, and collaboration, each and every piece slowly started to fit together until a clear picture of how the project was going to work surfaced.

As our nation’s knowledge of health and nutrition grows more and more, so does the desire to know what is actually in what we’re eating. Restaurants and food services have been increasingly releasing nutritional information for their company for exactly this reason. Thus, nutritional data has become even more accessible – from apps like MyFitnessPal and LoseIt to even the USDA’s Supertracker website. These small pieces of information, though seemingly unimportant in the long run, actually leads to healthier choices, and ultimately a healthier America. With many of the leading causes of death in the United States being nutrition related, it’s vital that Americans begin to really evaluate their lives from a nutritional standpoint. Even by just choosing a lower sugar scone, or turkey bacon over pork, or a vegetarian sandwich over one loaded with meat, you can make a difference in your diet.

So this is why Philadelphia Catering has decided to offer nutrition facts– because small choices can add up in the end to make a big difference.

We currently have the nutritional facts for our breakfasts and sandwich menu items.  See our website at – http://www.philadelphiacatering.com/nutrition-facts.asp.  This is a work in progress.  We will add more pages and categories during my Winter & Spring Breaks and finish up next Summer.   The idea will be eventually to provide a QR code on your buffet that will link you to the nutritional facts and allergens for your meal.  Please feel free to let me know your comments at Info@philadelphiacatering.com.

Julia’s PCC Work History

My First Assignment - Creating the PCC Photo Gallery

My First Assignment – Creating the PCC Photo Gallery

Packing Disposables for Orders

Packing Disposables for Orders

PCC Server Working at Catering Events

PCC Server Working at Catering Events

PCC 2015 Green Report: A Bump In The Road To Our Greener Future

A Bump in the Road to Sustainability

At PCC we are proud of our commitment to do our part to help the planet.  We regularly review our policies, procedures and processes to see if what changes can be made that will have a beneficial effect on the environment and work in our business model.  Some of these include improving energy efficiencies in our facility, composting and recycling our waste, offering ‘greener’ alternatives to our clients.  We began offering ‘zero-waste’ events to our clients and the enthusiasm was inspiring.  We were very proud to be one of the few caterers who had the resources to conduct small and large scale zero-waste events.   With our knowledgeable staff, compostable disposable offerings and composting service, we had become the ‘go-to’ people for sustainability in catering.  Then suddenly last summer our program encountered a major hurdle.  Our composting partner, Organic Diversion, informed us that their professional composting facility, Peninsula Compost Company, in Wilmington had been closed for an indefinite period.  All indications are that it will never reopen.

Wilmington Organics Recycling Center  - CLOSED

Wilmington Organics Recycling Center – CLOSED

The key factor to being able to conduct reduced and zero waste events is having access to a professional composting facility.  Non-food compostables such as plates, cups and utensils are made from sturdy materials including paper, leaves, and corn based resources. They are all compostable, but require the higher temperatures in composting piles achieved only in professional facilities.  It turns out this is the only facility of its kind in our area.  So for now, we are unable to provide zero-waste events.  We can still compost food waste, but this is small compared to the bulk of plates, napkins and utensils generated at events.  So we find ourselves in this paradigm shift where the greenest option is plastic.  Plastic??? Why plastic?  Plastic can be recycled.  A quick audit of our disposable items revealed that they are made of plastics #5 and #6, which can be recycled by The City of Philadelphia and University of Pennsylvania.   So a reduced waste event now consists of recycling the plastic disposables and composting the food waste.   One could argue that the compostable disposables will biodegrade quicker in the landfill, however, this process releases methane – a more potent greenhouse gas than Co2.  True there is methane released in composting, however, there is the benefit of the actual compost being returned to farms as nutrient rich soil and a reduction of the overall volume sent to the landfill.  So for now it’s plastic.  Hard to believe, when just a short while ago we were on our way to really changing the way people thought about their events and having great sustainable options.  In the meantime we will encourage recycling and continue to search for composting options and encouraging our suppliers to keep stocking compostable items so that we can step right back in when the opportunity arises.

Plastic Recycling Widely Available and Currently Our Best Option

Plastic Recycling Widely Available and Currently Our Best Option

Our periodic review of our sustainability initiatives has yielded our annual 2015 Green Report.  You will notice a decrease in green events in 2015 in comparison to 2014.  This is the disheartening reality of our composting predicament. To view the report, click this link – http://www.philadelphiacatering.com/greeninitiatives.asp.

2015 Green report

2015 Green Report

To read more about the Wilmington composting facility and a troubling conspiracy theory on Waste Management and its dubious role in this closing –  click link

Failure of the Wilmington Compost Facility Underscores Need for a Locally Based and Diverse Composting Infrastructure

Philly Feed$Back

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At Philadelphia Catering we are always trying to think of ways to improve our products and services.  We thought, what better way to find out than to ask our customers?  We need honest answers, good or bad, to help us improve and innovate.  Our dilemma is – how do we get you to tell us anonymously, so you can be candid, without taking your valuable time or being annoyed with email surveys?  How about an incentive?  We could give you cookies for survey replies, which would definitely work.  But, we want the answers to be anonymous so you can feel comfortable to be completely honest.  What we came up with, we feel is a win-win for everyone.

For every completed anonymous survey we receive – we will provide a meal for a hungry child!  

You help us – we help hungry children – you get better products and service from Philadelphia Catering. Philadelphia Catering Company announces the creation of, PhillyFeed$Back, a partnership with KidsBites, a Philabundance initiative. It’s a win-win-win.  The partnership centers on PCC soliciting feedback through a series of surveys to our customers.  As an incentive, PCC donates money for one meal to KidsBites for each completed survey.    Last month we started sending out surveys and the quality of the feedback has been tremendous – THANK YOU!  Today PCC will donate 97 meals to KidsBites.  This represents about 15% of the surveys sent, so we still have 85% out there to be completed.  So if you see an email request from us to fill out a survey – Help us out…Help a child out.

Hunger statistics:

  • Close to 40% of kids in Philadelphia live in poverty
  • Hungry children are 60% more likely to miss school
  • Hungry children are twice as likely to be suspended from school

Some links to learn more about poverty, hunger and how it affects children.

http://www.philabundance.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Ceres-Newsletter-3-28-13_a.pdf

http://whyy.org/cms/fridayarts/philabundance/

http://www.npr.org/2013/11/21/246413432/weighing-the-role-of-poverty-in-philadelphia-s-schools

We are proud to be part of KidsBites, and to help put an end to undernourished children. Please help us pay it forward by taking a few minutes to complete the survey.

Philadelphia Catering Company Now Serving Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee

Cafe Excellence: Coffee with a conscience

Cafe Excellence: Coffee with a conscience

A few years back we took a look at our coffee supplier to make sure we were providing our customers with the best value.  What we found was that our coffee roaster, Cafe Excellence, was a great small local roaster providing some of the best coffee around.

– see blog – https://philadelphiacateringblog.com/2012/07/.

This time around being true to our mission on sustainability we decided to take a look to see if there are more sustainable options we can take advantage of with our coffee service.  Cafe Excellence again does not disappoint.  Also being committed to sustainability Cafe Excellence carries a line of coffee with the  Rainforest Alliance Certified seal.

RAC Seal of approval

RAC Seal of approval

According to the Rain Forest Alliance;

Products bearing the seal originate on, or contain ingredients sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms or forests. These farms and forests are managed according to rigorous environmental, social and economic criteria designed to conserve wildlife; safeguard soils and waterways; protect workers, their families and local communities; and increase livelihoods in order to achieve true, long-term sustainability.”

We serve a lot of coffee.  Last year we served 97,454 cups of coffee and 719,368 cups of coffee since 2004.   Our 15 Year PCC veteran employee, Joe Kidd is responsible for brewing most of it and he is very pleased with the new initiative.  So once again a simple day to day business decision can have far reaching effects to help improve lives, our environment, and our planet.

Our 15 year veteran employee, Joe Kidd in action

Our 15 year veteran employee, Joe Kidd in action

 

PCC Owners Alan and Tim celebrating Joe and his 15 excellent years of service

PCC Owners Alan and Tim celebrating Joe and his 15 excellent years of service

Cafe Excellence is planning on expanding their Rain Forest Alliance Certified offerings and you can buy them online – check them out – http://cafeexcellence.com/rainforest-alliance-coffee/

To learn more about the Rainforest Alliance – http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/about

Bravo Cafe Excellence!

Bravo Cafe Excellence!

Some Brotherly Love in Yosemite

Putting Some Yo! in Yosemite

Putting Some Yo! in Yosemite

Yosemite National Park.  An incredible place to visit, an even more incredible place to live.  Surrounded daily by the awesome beauty of Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Vernal Falls and the list goes on.  Cool people, perfect California weather, authentic cheese steaks (cue sound effect of needle dragging across record)….I mean NO cheese steaks.  What is a former Philly girl to do?  About 10 years ago, my sister Cathy moved to Yosemite Valley to continue her teaching profession and discover her love of nature and climbing.  Living in Yosemite has been a rewarding and rich experience, however it comes at cost.  While you are surrounded with magnificence, you are also in a culinary desert.  That’s a slight exaggeration, but finding a real cheese steak in Yosemite Valley is as about as likely as finding a grizzly bear walking down Market Street.

Nothing compares to those delicious, just right chewy-soft rolls.  Urban legend says the secret is the Philly water used in the recipe that makes them impossible to duplicate.

Nothing compares to these delicious, just right, chewy-soft rolls. Urban legend says the secret is the Philly water used in the recipe that makes them impossible to duplicate anywhere else.

Cathy is a cheese steak aficionado.  A veteran of the grill – spending much time making this classic sandwich for hordes of satisfied customers in our Powelton Pizza days.  Last month I received an email from her asking if it is possible to send all the ingredients necessary for her to have a Philly cheese steak party.  Sure …no problem if you don’t mind shipping costs in the hundreds of dollars!!  She sadly declined.  We decided since her birthday was around the corner and she truly was jonesing for this great sandwich,  Philadelphia Catering Company would help her out and ship a Philly cheese steak feast to the land of grizzly bears.

Thanks to overnight shipping and dry ice, the package arrived safely.

Thanks to overnight shipping and dry ice, the package arrived safely.

The package arrived safely (and still frozen) on her birthday.  She gathered a group of her Yosemite friends and got to work making this Philly feast. As I mentioned, Cathy is a cheese steak making veteran, and like riding a bike, a skill you never forget.

Here's the beef!

Here’s the beef!

You can take a girl out of Philly, but you can never take the Philly out of a girl. Amen.

You can take a girl out of Philly, but you can never take the Philly out of a girl. Amen.

The Philly feast was a success.  Cathy’s friends enjoyed authentic Philly cheese steaks out in the wild west of Yosemite.  It was the talk of the valley. Now I’d say for sure that’s bringing some Philly Yo! into Yosemite.

Philly rule: Never discuss the calorie count of a cheese steak, especially before everyone's about to eat.

Philly rule: Never discuss the calorie count of a cheese steak, especially right before everyone’s about to eat.

Some happy campers!

Some happy campers!

Even kitty Dolomite got a sample.

Even kitty Dolomite got a sample

PCC5000- Third Annual Thanksgiving Event for Needy in Philadelphia

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By:  Julia DeCecco

Senior, Wissahickon High School

Coordinator, 2014 PCC5000 Thanksgiving Event

Julia DeCecco and Elena Pons 2014 Event Coordinators

Julia DeCecco and Elena Pons 2014 Event Coordinators

Thanksgiving: A day of warmth, family, laughter, hues of red and orange, family football games, and full bellies. A day that everyone looks forward to; one where everyone can come together and appreciate what it means to be family, friends, and simply to be alive. Tables are crammed with delicious home cooked food and family from all across the country, and happiness bubbles over the sounds of clinking glasses, forks scraping plates and joyous laughter. This is the Thanksgiving many grew up with: one that you may not think twice about.

As a volunteer with the service project PCC5000, I have been shown the true meaning of Thanksgiving and the importance of giving back. PCC 5000, a project started by Philadelphia Catering to provide 5000 meals to Philadelphia’s neediest, has forever impacted how I view this holiday. Being the third annual year of this Thanksgiving event, I continue to be struck by the abundant need in our city, and the real impact that PCC can have on the community. Partnering with Bridging the Gap Ministries, each year the hot meal that is delivered to these guests does so much more than fill their stomachs, but inspires though motivational speeches – feeding both body and spirit. Our team of tireless volunteers came together and donated their time to prepare, deliver, and serve during this busy time of year.  The event was a success as a result of their efforts, and all who participated realized that we have much to be thankful for.

Returning as volunteer each year I am more inspired by the positive influence this event brings to so many people. Thanks to all of the time and effort put into this event, each year it becomes more significant. PCC 5000 is more than just 5000 meals – it’s reaching out to 5000 people in the most important ways possible, and I am very thankful to be a part of it.

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A special Thanks to Dan Pizza of Juxta Prints for donating the T-Shirts for the volunteers of PCC 5000.  Dan and Juxta Prints provide all the staff shirts and jackets for the Philadelphia Catering Company.  They provide the highest quality printing on apparel at great prices.  When we approached Dan ask for a discount he jumped at the chance and did it for free – we can’t thank him enough.  Please visit his website and consider working with the next time you need custom printed apparel.

Dan Pizza 267.455.0076 – http://www.juxtaprints.com

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Throughout the year we get many calls to help with a multitude of worthy causes. While it is not possible to help in all cases, we do our best to contribute when we can.  This year  we partnered and contributed to the following events.  They are all great causes.  Check them out and help out if you can!

Zero Waste Events – Gaining Traction

Compostable waste ready  to be sent to our composting partner, Organic Diversion

Compostable waste ready to be sent to our composting partner, Organic Diversion

The Philadelphia Catering Company has been doing ‘Zero Waste’ events for two years now.  Despite the excellent environmental benefits, it has at times been a hard sell to clients and a steep learning curve for guests at events.  We have experienced incredible successes and complete failures.  Each time we do this type of event we learn something and try to apply it to our future operating procedures.

What we have learned is that the single greatest factor to driving the success of a zero waste event is good, informative signage.  That being said, even with great signs – inexperienced, uninformed, uninterested guests can diminish the diversion rates at your event.  Only time and a commitment to holding more of these events will change people’s thought process and the disposal of their waste.

Our longtime client, The University of Pennsylvania, is jumping in with both feet by encouraging and supporting event planners to hold zero or reduced waste events whenever possible.  It is strongly encouraged now and expected to be University policy in the not so distant future.  To help the event planners see that holding a zero waste event is not as daunting as it may seem, the University held an informational lunch.  A zero waste lunch, of course, with presentations by sustainability experts from Penn’s Green Campus Partnership and an experienced caterer – The Philadelphia Catering Company.

Zero waste informational event at the University of Pennsylvania

Zero waste informational event at the University of Pennsylvania

Zero waste buffet display

Zero waste buffet display

VerTerra dinnerware is not only fully compostable, but attractive and sturdy

Verterra dinnerware is not only fully compostable, but attractive and sturdy

PCC provided a beautiful, tasty lunch as well as zero waste services

PCC provided a beautiful, tasty lunch as well as zero waste services

PCC provided the lunch and zero waste service as well as some insights on how to conduct a successful zero waste event.  Alan DeCecco, President of PCC, explained that one of the most difficult tasks is getting the guests to put their waste in the correct receptacle – reading the signs.  We guaranteed, that despite all the great signs we provided, someone would place their waste in the wrong receptacle today….but this savvy group proved us wrong.  100% of the waste from this lunch was diverted from the landfill.  Not one item was placed in the wrong receptacle.  So we are moving in the right direction.

The key to success - proper receptacles with good signage

The key to success – proper receptacles with good signage

As time goes on, and zero waste events become more the norm, people will get the message.  Guests truly want to be part of an effort towards sustainability.  We just need to keep doing it.  Since the luncheon at Penn, we have provided 3 additional zero waste events and the demand for our compostable dinnerware is at an all-time high.  Among them, an exceptional zero waste BBQ for Penn Engineering on Shoemaker Green – the greenest of Penn venues.

Barbecue on Shoemaker Green - Penn's open green space

Barbecue on Shoemaker Green – Penn’s open green space

A beautiful day to be green

A beautiful day to be green!

An awesome day – great weather, great food and a successful zero waste event – 99.1% diversion from the landfill!  Of course, it wasn’t perfect at first, especially when one of the very first guests tried to cram their plate in the recycling bin.  We responded by having our on-site attendants talk up all the zero waste points of the event – they listened.  As an added service, we tallied the final weights of compostable, recyclable and landfill waste.  111 lbs compostable waste, 6 lbs recycled waste and a mere 1 lb landfill waste.  By next week all the compostable material will be at a professional composting facility – Organic Diversion – working its way back to a local farm.

PCC tries to make guests aware that everything is compostable

PCC tries to make guests aware that everything is compostable

Good signage reminders guests that materials are compostable

Good signage reminder guests that materials are compostable

 

PCC attendant measuring the weights of waste after event

PCC attendant measuring the weights of waste after event

 

Keeping track of our success – logging compostable, recycling, and landfill waste

From Shoemaker Green – to Organic Diversion – to local farm

Mission accomplished! 

If you are interested in getting more information on eco-friendly options PCC can provide: Zero or reduced waste options, samples of compostable dinner ware, please call our office and ask for Kim, our Sustainability Czar – 215.468.0518

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