Waste > Food Donation

Instead of throwing away unused food, consider donating it to a nearby food bank or homeless shelter. Contact your local food banks or visit Feeding America for information about food banks near you.  Also visit nonprofit Rock and Wrap it Up for information about their food donation program, which works with sports organizations and schools to help feed the hungry in their community with sports facility food recovery.

Donating unused food not only helps feed local people in need, but also saves energy and water that would have been used to make additional meals, diverts waste from landfills and incinerators, and reduces greenhouse gas emissions (from decomposing food waste in landfills).


Since Rock and Wrap It Up’s launch in 2003, 60 professional sports organizations from MLB, the NBA, the NHL, and the NFL have participated in their food donation program. For example, all 30 teams in the National Hockey League work with Rock and Wrap it Up to pack up all prepared but unsold concession food on game nights for redistribution to local places of need.

Over the course of the initiative’s first full season, NHL Clubs provided 163,000 meals to people in need and diverted 105 tons of food from landfills and incinerators across North America. For this food diversion program, the EPA honored the Boston Bruins with the Environmental Merit Award, and four NHL clubs in New York area (Region 2) and four NHL clubs in the MidWest (Region 5) with the Environmental Quality Award. Since 2010, the league-wide food recovery program has diverted more than 300 tons of waste from landfills and incinerators and provided local shelters with more than 400,000 meals.

The following colleges and universities also work with Rock and Wrap It Up: Barnard College, Columbia University, CW Post University, Dowling College, Five Towns College, University of Florida, Fordham University, Penn State, University of California Los Angeles, University of Texas at Austin, University of Southern California, and Yale University.

Of the schools on this list, Columbia Athletics was one of the first collegiate athletics programs to donate all prepared but untouched concession food in partnership with Rock and Wrap It Up. Learn more by reading the Columbia University feature in the NRDC Collegiate Game Changers report.


For example, since the 1990s, Oregon Athletics has donated unsold concession food to the local food bank, Food for Lane County. The University of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium hosts a food donation drive at the annual spring football game was launched in the 1990s; spectators are admitted to the game in exchange for three cans of food.

The program has provided 267,839 pounds of food to Food for Lane County and is the single largest event benefiting that charity. At the 2012 game more than 36 tons of food were collected in a three-hour period.


Student involvement in environmental initiatives can reduce demands on staff time and departmental resources. Student involvement can also help attract support from facilities, athletics, recreation, campus administration, and other departments. The following idea is one example of a task for students to conduct in your sports facilities. This preliminary student project could help facilitate interest in establishing donation programs across all sports facilities. Consider encouraging interested students to do the following:

Food Donation Program:

Instead of throwing away unused food, establish a donation program following athletic events to send untouched leftover food to a nearby food bank or another place of need. Contact your local food bank, visit Feeding America for information about food banks near you, or visit Rock and Wrap It Up! for information on its college donation program.

Visit the relevant page in this guide for more ideas for Student-Led Project Ideas.


Food wasting is a particularly unpleasant feature of American society. Every year we throw out at least 31% of all the food available for consumption, about 133 billion pounds annually. Less than 5% o of food waste is recovered in some form of organics recycling, and the rest winds up in landfills and incinerators. When food is delivered to a landfill, it decomposes and contributes to the release of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

By donating food, you help feed the hungry while reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfills, thus helping to reduce these emissions. Donating leftover food also reduces the need for additional food production, thereby reducing the environmental impacts associated with agriculture, including water pollution and habitat destruction. If we could recover one-third of the food wasted in the United States each year (and distribute it appropriately), we could feed all 50 million food-insecure Americans their entire diet all year.


Food donation and waste reduction at your sports facilities can help your institution earn points within the “Waste” subcategory of AASHE’s Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS). It can directly contribute to earning 8 points for the credits “OP 22: Waste Minimization” and “OP 23: Waste Diversion.” Work with sustainability and facilities staff on your campus to support any institutional efforts to attain or improve your institution’s STARS rating. Use the STARS 2.0 Technical Manual to learn more.


NRDC Report: “Wasted: How America Is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill”

NRDC Guide to Composting at Sports Venues

AASHE Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System (STARS)

AASHE STARS 2.0 Technical Manual

Rock and Wrap it Up

Feeding America: Food Bank Locator

EPA – Food Waste Reduction

EPA: Food To Good To Waste

EPA: Food Recovery Challenge