Delaware North knows of at least 13,000 pounds of goods donated to food pantries and food banks. (Courtesy Delaware North)

‘We were stocked up. … We had the ability to respond quickly.’

Over 3 tons of vegetables, fruits and dairy products went from the Delaware North Sportservice kitchens of Detroit’s Little Caesars Arena into the donation stream of the local community. Just a little less than that left Portland’s Moda Center, while more than 3 tons was spread across Los Angeles from Levy kitchens at Staples Center and a whopping 6 tons from State Farm Arena in Atlanta.

As venues shuttered in response to changes forced by COVID-19, many chefs and concessions companies were left with stockpiles of food brought in to handle planned events. 

“We were stocked up and ready for the spring opener for baseball to hockey, basketball and other events,” said Deb Friedel, director of sustainability for Delaware North. “We had the ability to respond quickly and donate surplus food to local nonprofits where we operate.” 

Using already established donation methods unique to each venue, Delaware North donated food using its typical streams but in a more robust way. Using data from 21 venues that reported numbers to Friedel, although many more were donating food, Delaware North knows of at least 13,000 pounds of fresh vegetables, meat, bread, cheese, milk and nonalcoholic beverages that went to local food pantries and food banks, including the 6,500 pounds from Little Caesars Arena, 1,500 pounds of food from MetLife Stadium, and 580 pounds of food from Boston’s TD Garden. 

Spectra, Levy, Centerplate and others all have their own strategy. Delaware North has used existing local partnerships, while Spectra collaborated with the Food Recovery Network, a national nonprofit that fights food waste, to find the most appropriate place for food donations across its network. 

In Rochester, Minn., Spectra’s Mayo Civic Center donated 300 pounds to a local food bank and an additional 200 pounds to venue staff. The Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., donated surplus food to food banks and domestic violence shelters. Salvation Army kitchens were recipients in some cases. 

Centerplate’s Florida locations used Food Rescue Miami to donate to local missions and shelters, including produce, bread, snacks, turkey and prepared sandwiches and pastries. At Hard Rock Stadium, Centerplate created employee care packages for hourly employees to take home, the same thing that the company did at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando. 

“Centerplate is working hard to find the silver lining in this unprecedented situation,” said Paul Pettas, Centerplate spokesperson. “It is great that we’re able to give back to the local community with our prepared but unused food from these recent show cancellations. Anything we can do to strengthen the areas in which we serve, we will do it.” 

Friedel said the food donation strategy started with the most perishable items first, getting those donated quickly. From there, kitchens would inventory what was still available, keep things that would save and then continue to donate other items. 

She said having a stewardship program for community involvement in place is a hallmark of the local field operations teams, general managers and chefs, and the main office acts as a support to make sure they provide assistance as needed. 

The timing of deliveries and events determined who had the biggest stockpile of food and, thus, the largest donations. Staples Center, for example, had just received a shipment to handle a 17-day stretch that included 11 home NBA or NHL games and NCAA tournament games. State Farm Arena had just received a produce-heavy delivery before the cancellations started rolling in, and San Francisco’s Chase Center had NBA games and concerts on the docket. 

The massive Staples Center donation was split across multiple Los Angeles charities because of its size. Elsewhere, Barclays Center donated 5 tons of food and beverages to New York’s largest food rescue organization and Portland’s Providence Park gave 1,000 pounds to Life Up, a nonprofit focused on reducing hunger for low-income residents.