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This year’s Super Bowl won a fight against food waste

Thirty thousand pounds of leftover food were redistributed to hungry Floridians in the days following the game.

The Super Bowl is known for its culinary excesses, both at the stadium where the final game is held and in the homes of millions of fans, where a smorgasbord of snacks is usually prepared for family and friends. But what happens to all the food that isn't eaten? Leftovers go into the fridge at home, but at the stadium they typically end up in Dumpsters, unable to be served to anyone else.

That's where Food Rescue comes in, a U.S. organization that has been working to reduce food waste since 2011. Last Sunday, Food Rescue partnered with the Super Bowl's organizers at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami to collect an estimated 30,000 pounds of uneaten food, enough to feed 20,000 people, and distribute it to five shelters in southern Florida.

ESPN reported, “The food collected includes beef tenderloins, barbecue chicken, wings, ribs and charcuterie plates from VIP catered sections, concession stands and suites, among other places.” With so much of this leftover food being meat, it makes the rescue effort even more meaningful from a climate perspective. Meat has an extremely high carbon footprint and requires vast resources to produce, making it the worst possible food to waste.

Food waste is an enormous global problem. The World Resources Institute said, “If food loss and waste were a country, it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world.” Food releases methane when it breaks down in landfill; and methane, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warms the planet 86 times faster than carbon dioxide. Tackling food waste is necessary if we ever hope to get greenhouse gas emissions under control.

People can do this at home, but we desperately need broader systemic changes that have an even bigger impact, such as reviewing how grocery stores, restaurants, and huge events like the Super Bowl handle leftovers. Redistribution is an excellent strategy that, in this case, benefits the one in seven Floridians that experiences food insecurity; but similar strategies should be implemented on a daily basis, not just on special occasions.

It is impressive that the Super Bowl's hospitality group, Centerplate, and Food Rescue have pulled off such a feat this week. Hopefully it can be a model for other event organizers to follow and will be repeated at every Super Bowl to come.

Thirty thousand pounds of leftover food were redistributed to hungry Floridians in the days following the game.