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30,000 Pounds of Food from the Super Bowl Is Being Rescued and Donated

Food & Wine logo Food & Wine 2/6/2020 Jelisa Castrodale
Steve Spagnuolo et al. posing for the camera: Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has Gatorade poured on him during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL. © Photo by Rich Graessle/PPI/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid has Gatorade poured on him during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LIV on February 2, 2020 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, FL.

Thousands of pieces of confetti were still falling onto the field at the Hard Rock Stadium when those of us at home saw the first commercial for the NFL Shop's literally just-released line of Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl LIV Champions gear. The league undoubtedly had two versions of the ad ready to go, and if the San Francisco 49ers had a better second-half defense, their logos might've been the ones that were printed on those $34.99 t-shirts.

Of course, the NFL had two versions of all of its on-field (and online) apparel too, and all of the never-worn clothing that hailed the 49ers as Super Bowl champions will be sent to Good360, a Virginia nonprofit that will ultimately box it all up and send it to other nonprofits that can distribute it outside the United States.

But what about the tons (and tons and tons) of food that wasn't eaten during Sunday's super-sized game? Thanks to the work of several non-profits and their volunteers, an estimated 30,000 pounds of food will be distributed to five shelters in southern Florida this week. The massive undertaking is—surprisingly—the first major food recovery effort to follow a Super Bowl.

According to ESPN, the food was collected from catered VIP sections, concession stands, and suites, and the leftovers include everything from beef tenderloin and barbecue chicken to grilled ribs and charcuterie plates. Volunteers from Food Rescue US, Centerplate Hospitality, and the NFL Green initiative have worked in shifts to get the food out of the stadium and into trucks so it can be delivered to the Broward Outreach Center, Broward Partnership for the Homeless, Camillus House, Lotus House Shelter, and the Miami Rescue Mission.

"It's a full volunteer job for everyone. We just want to help people in need,"  Ellen Bowen, the director of Food Rescue US-Miami, told ESPN. "It's amazing to see how much food there is that otherwise would have been thrown in the trash that can now feed so many people." (According to some estimates, they've recovered enough food to feed 20,000 individuals in need.)  

Food Rescue US, which is headquartered in Norwalk, Connecticut, was founded in 2011, when software developer Jeff Schacher started to wonder what the restaurants who used his program could be doing to cut back on the amount of food they threw out. "I pitched the idea to my team. We started calling some restaurant operators and some support agencies and there was definitely food to save and definitely people that needed it," he explains on the Food Rescue US website. "Now the only question left was “can we make the process simple enough for everyone?”

Part of simplifying the process was eliminating the need for those restaurants or grocers to transport or store their unused food; instead, Food Rescue US relies on volunteers who go to the participating "Food Donors" collect the items that would've otherwise been thrown away, and deliver them directly to shelters, food pantries, or community kitchens. 

That approach seems to work: since 2011, Food Rescue US says it has delivered enough food to prepare 36 million meals, and it has kept 50 million pounds of still-edible goods out of trash bins and landfills. 

Super Bowl LV will be held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida in February of 2021. Based on the success of this year's post-game food recovery, hopefully something similar is already in the works for the next one too.

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