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Food waste will likely be a big problem at the Super Bowl. One organization hopes to change that

Food waste is a big problem. And this Super Bowl weekend, we can expect to see enormous amounts of waste. But one nonprofit plans to recover surplus food from one of the largest tailgate parties happening in Glendale.

TV host Bobby Flay is hosting a tailgate party with food prepared by celebrity chefs. 

Not your typical tailgate party. And there will be leftover food. 

“And so we want to make sure that after this event … that all the surplus food that wasn't presented to the guests, that food is recovered, and we're going to donate that food to Phoenix Rescue Mission,” said Regina Anderson, executive director of Food Recovery Network (FRN). “Our effort is to make food recovery the norm and not the exception. So when we do large scale events like this, we want as many people involved as possible.”

The goal this year is to collect around 3,000 pounds of surplus food. Anderson said, once they get the word that the chefs are no longer serving guests, they can recover food that's been prepared but hasn't brought out yet. But it's not just prepared foods.

“There's going to be a lot of raw ingredients that the celebrity chefs haven't used yet. So that's going to be the lobster tails that you know, various other kinds of seafood, chicken, but it's also going to be things like onions [and] tomatoes,” she said.

FRN is partnering with the city of Glendale, as well as students from NAU who run a local chapter, to recover surplus food from the event. FRN has chapters at all three major state universities.

“We have chapters in 192 higher ed institutions all across the United States,” she said. “Our aim is to get onto as many college campuses as we possibly can.”

Because there's actually a tremendous amount of food waste on college campuses, if students learn how to recover food, they can donate it to organizations like the Phoenix Rescue Mission or even keep it on campus for students who are food insecure. 

“We started over 10 years ago by college students,” Anderson said. “They saw that all of this great food was being thrown away.”

And it didn’t make sense because they knew there were students who were food insecure.

“They started recovering from one dining hall. And within a month, they’ve recovered a couple thousand pounds of food. And they said, ‘Well, we're onto something.’”

Anderson says roughly 11% of people in higher ed are unhoused and likely food insecure.

“And so when we think about that whole myth of the starving college student, we should not romanticize that, we should not romanticize people couch surfing. Those are people who are unstable in their housing and they need help,” she said.

What to know about food recovery:

By recovering surplus food, you will:

  • Become a leader in your industry by tackling food waste
  • Initiate sustainable practices that will enhance your business long term
  • Help reduce hunger and food insecurity in your community
  • Build partnerships with local organizations
  • Support USDA and EPA food waste reduction goals

Senior field correspondent Kathy Ritchie has 20 years of experience reporting and writing stories for national and local media outlets — nearly a decade of it has been spent in public media.