For some people, the Super Bowl is as much about food as it is about football. Fans stock up on chips, dips, chicken wings, and sandwiches measured by the foot. But what happens to the leftovers after the fourth quarter?
MetLife Stadium, the arena for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVIII, has put some real work into addressing the food waste issue this game day. The stadium and its food service partner, Delaware North Companies Sportservice, announced this month that it will send all of its waste kitchen oil to be converted to biodiesel fuel, compost all kitchen scraps, and donate all leftover food to feed the hungry, among other environmentally friendly practices.
These efforts are part of 61 different environmental measurements the stadium and its food service provider met to earn a Certified Green Restaurant® designation from the Green Restaurant Association. With more than 200 restaurants on site, serving as many as 100,000 people on game day, the East Rutherford, New Jersey, stadium is the first stadium and the largest food service operation to receive the certification. In addition to the food waste efforts, other eco-friendly practices include eliminating all polystyrene foam containers, recycling, and installing waterless urinals.
Tri-State Biodiesel signed with Delaware North late last year to process its used oil, and thousands of gallons of recycled cooking oil will be used to keep tents outside the stadium warm on Super Bowl Sunday, according to The New York Daily News. Leftover prepared food from Super Bowl events will be donated to soup kitchens, shelters and other local organizations that provide meals to those in need with help from Rock and Wrap It Up, a national nonprofit food recovery organization, according to the NFL.
Approximately 4 to 10 percent of food purchased by food service operations becomes kitchen loss, according to LeanPath, a company that makes automated food waste tracking systems, which is a waste of not only food, but money and the resources that went into producing that food. While the stadium didn’t release an estimate of the expected volume of the food waste it will divert during the Super Bowl, over the course of 2012 the stadium composted 153 tons of waste. (Another football arena, FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland, recently implemented a new system that will divert an estimated 35 tons of stadium food waste from landfills into biodigesters for conversion into energy.)
So while the vendors serving pizza, burgers, and hot dogs inside the stadium will be diminishing their environmental impact, an important question remains: What about the fans watching at home? As the stadium diverts a considerable volume of food waste from landfills, a bigger win on game day would come from the awareness about food waste its efforts could create among fans.
If you’re hosting your own Super Bowl party this weekend, you can reduce your own game day food waste by planning carefully for the amount of food you’ll need. (This cheat sheet can help.) Store leftovers in a timely manner so they can be eaten later, send guests home with leftovers, and compost those food scraps, if you can.
No matter who wins on Sunday, Sustainable America is encouraged by the efforts some NFL stadiums have taken this season to defeat wasted food. We’ve also been working with with smaller event venues and will be getting involved with other major sports arenas that want to reduce and compost food waste, and we know it takes hard work. But if it can be done at a venue large enough to host the Super Bowl, it can be done anywhere. We hope these practices spread to more sports venues around the county.