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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Philadelphia Startup Will Collect Leftover Food During NFL Draft


The 2017 National Football League (NFL) draft is happening in Philadelphia this weekend, from April 27 to 29. And a local organization will help recover surplus food so it can be donated to area shelters.

Food Connect is the Philadelphia-based organization behind an app that makes donating surplus food to local shelters as easy as a few clicks. The organization is partnering with the NFL during the draft, where an estimated 10,000 pounds of food will be collected from vendors, events and local restaurants. That still edible food otherwise bound for the landfill will be donated to area food banks, pantries and soup kitchens.

Food Connect took part in Operation Food Rescue during the Democratic National Convention, which brought about 50,000 visitors to Philadelphia. The initiative mobilized the city’s leading anti-hunger organizations that collect surplus food from large events and provide them to local shelters. During the eight days before and during the DNC, Food Connect collected 11,239 pounds of food, or about 9,366 meals, and other organizations recovered thousands more.

One in five people in the Philly area face hunger, and nearly a third of the city’s households are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps). In heartbreaking contrast, about 20 percent of Philadelphia's edible food ends up in the garbage each day, according to Food Connect.

Over 326,000 people, almost 22 percent of the Philadelphia population, lack access to enough food for a healthy and active lifestyle. That is almost twice the American average. But Food Connect says it has a way to improve food security in the city and make a dent in the problem. It allows people to schedule a pickup of surplus food at their organization through an iOS or Android app. The donated food is typically consumed the same day or the following day.

Philadelphia is home to about 700 food pantries and soup kitchens, and almost 90 percent of them run out of food or are forced to provide less food at certain times during the year. And all of this while edible food is sent to local landfills. 

Food waste in general is a gigantic problem in the U.S., where an estimated 30 to 40 percent of the food supply ends up trashed. That amounted to about 133 billion pounds and $161 billion worth of food in 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). 

A 2012 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council pegged food waste in America at the higher end of the spectrum -- concluding Americans waste around 40 percent of their food supply. If that's true, it equates to 20 pounds of food wasted per person, per month. As food continues to find its way into local landfills, an estimated 1 in 6 Americans are food insecure. 

The American sports industry is catching on to the glaring fact that surplus food from massive events such as the NFL draft must be collected and donated to local organizations that serve the hungry.

This year's Super Bowl serves as a good example: About a dozen local organizations collected surplus food from NRG Stadium in Houston, thanks to efforts coordinated by the Houston Food Bank. The Super Bowl is not the only example of sporting events where surplus food was recovered: Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres, improved their food waste diversion from 60 tons in 2005 to 164 tons in 2011, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And teams and stadiums across the country are collaborating with one another on ways to reduce and recapture food waste. 

Surplus food that is still edible can and should be collected from sporting events. Doing so provides environmental benefits while providing food for local shelters. It's a win-win for people and the planet.

Image credit: Food Connect

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

Read more stories by Gina-Marie Cheeseman