NFL fans celebrated the 57th Annual Super Bowl on Sunday night, snacking on burgers, wings, and beer. But whatever wasn’t consumed at these parties was wasted, impacting food insecurity in the country.
According to the USDA, about 34 million people are food insecure — 9 million of them are children.
Non-profit organizations like the Food Recovery Network, a student network founded at the University of Maryland, have a mission to salvage any consumable food that’s left over at Super Bowl tailgate parties and get it into the hands of those who are food insecure.
Last year, FRN collected about 2,000 pounds of food waste at the SoFi Stadium in California and in Miami in 2020, the network recovered about 5,000 pounds of food. This year they expected to recover about 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of food from the tailgate and deliver it to Phoenix Rescue Mission.
“So if there happens to be surplus food, which we know there will be, there’s a plan for that food,” said executive director Regina Anderson. “We’re not gonna throw that food away when we know so many people are suffering from food insecurity,” she continued.
The Super Bowl is the number one day for chicken wing consumption. This year, the expected consumption is 1.45 billion — the highest number ever projected.
Dr. Mahadev Bhat, a natural resource economics professor at Florida International University, calculated that about 7,069 tons of those wings would be wasted.
“In most of the places in the country, this food waste will end up in landfills, and we have a very small percentage, 10, 15% of that waste may be either composted or recycled,” said Dr. Bhat, who’s also co-director of the FIU Agroecology department.
Food waste is the largest component in landfills, according to Recycle Track Systems. Americans discard nearly 80 billion pounds of food per year — more than any other nation.
Eric Flannery, the owner of The Big Board bar in Washington, D.C., makes sure the restaurant uses products for more than one menu — a process called cross-utilization. They not only use mushrooms as burger toppings but also use them to make mushroom patties
“That food waste is something you can control,” Flannery said. “The food waste that you can’t control is when people don’t finish what is brought to them. Most of that ends up in the trash.”
“We try to have our portion sizes correctly so that we don’t have a lot, and our menu is a la carte, but you can’t can’t stop it,” he added.
At home, Food Recovery Network recommends being mindful of amount purchased as well as tasting and smelling food before throwing it out.