In 1994, Syd Mandelbaum (left) — a biker-looking heavily-tattooed scientist, and the son of two Holocaust survivors — started a group with a simple mission, providing food that was otherwise wasted to the hungry. He did so initially by approaching rock groups and asking them to donate their unused backstage food to his organization.
In 2003, after reading an article about Mandelbaum, Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Maroth’s wife, Brooke started thinking about what the Tigers do with their leftover food. Amidst one of the franchise’s worst seasons, and her husband losing 21 games, the Maroths and the Tigers got together with Mandelbaum to begin donating all their leftover concession foods and other perishables that otherwise would just have been thrown out.
The Tigers became the first organization to do so; currently, 31 sports franchises are involved in the program in addition to rock bands, movie studios and school cafeterias.
“Our thinking was, ‘With all of the hungry people out there, why throw this food away?’ ” said Mike Maroth, “What we found was, it was such an easy process to get it to people who needed it. All someone had to do was wrap it up, and Syd sent one of his local reps around to pick it up.”
On average the sports teams and stadiums donate anywhere between 500-1000 items — all of which previously just were tossed into a landfill — worth between $5,000-10,000, to those most in need the food goes a long way.
“Gandhi said, ‘Poverty is our worst disease and hunger is its worst symptom,’ ” says Mandelbaum. “Hunger is a sidebar to poverty, which explains why some children have trouble learning in school, or why some adults engage in antisocial behavior. But we can end that.” Mandelbaum believes the remedy lies in “logistics, finding a way to get from Point A [where the unused food is located] to Point B [the hungry].”
Mandelbaum’s group estimates that in spending only $15,000 a year to arrange for meals that they reach over 2.5 million hungry mouths every year. The group has a very simple and elegant motto: “Just take it and use it.” Relying solely on volunteers for its staff, Rock and Wrap It Up always can use more people to help out, if you’re interested you should contact them directly via their website.