Jack Groh Q & A

In February, I gushed about food recovery during Super Bowl week. The NFL Environmental Program teamed with the Arizona non-profit Waste Not to collect more than 93,000 pounds of sanitary, delicious leftovers.

After overseeing Pro Bowl activities in Honolulu (poor guy!) and getting started on next year’s Super Bowl, Jack Groh, director of the NFL Environmental Program, was nice enough to answer some questions by e-mail:

How did Super Bowl food recovery begin?

Prepared food was being donated when I first joined the NFL in 1993-4 but not in a coordinated way. In about 1995-6, we asked to take over coordination of that project since it was a significant source of waste and therefore had an environmental impact. Since then we have worked closely with food banks and food recovery organizations in each host community to maximize the recovery of prepared foods and donate that food to soup kitchens, shelters, churches, etc.

At your average Super Bowl party, how much food is recovered?

We do not work with individual private parties – only large events directly connected to and sanctioned by the NFL or by the local Super Bowl host committee. The total amount collected varies widely from year to year depending on many factors including the weather, the number of sanctioned events, the capabilities of the local food recovery organizations, the geographical location of events, etc.

How much extra food do party planners prepare?

Not exactly sure – they do have their own “yardstick” that they use, depending on how many people attend a particular function.

What foods are recovered from the Super Bowl game itself (amount, kind)?

It varies a great deal each year. Some stadiums have existing arrangements with food recovery organizations – some do not. The type of food varies but usually includes everything from “stadium” food like hot dogs, chips, etc. up to high-end appetizers and desserts served in the suites.

Of the venues you approach to recover food, what proportion (roughly) turn you down now compared to 15 years ago? If they decline to participate, what are their reasons?

Very few decline to participate and the ones that do typically cite liability and corporate policy. In some cases we have helped the local food bank overcome these policies and left them with an ongoing relationship with a facility that did not previously work with them. Since most states have “Good Samaritan” legislation that protects donors, we use that as a starting point to discuss the issue.

Is there a league MVP (player) in terms of their environmental commitment? Is there one team who stands out in supporting the NFL Environmental Program?

There’s no MVP at this time, but several teams including the Philadelphia Eagles, Seattle Seahawks, NY Giants, Miami Dolphins and others have implemented their own independent policies and projects for greening their operations.

Do you have a favorite NFL team?

One of the teams that made an impression on me this year was the NY Giants. They were the first team to go to Super Bowl and get actively involved in the NFL’s environmental initiatives there. The Giants organization participated in both the food recovery and the material donation projects in Arizona…We are hoping to get other Super Bowl teams involved the same way.

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Despite his shrewd dodging of that last question, we all thank Jack for his time and efforts.

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