Agganis Arena: Salvaging Food, Feeding Boston

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Each year, Americans across the country are making difficult decisions when it comes to putting food on the table. Families are often forced to choose between paying for food and other necessities such as utilities, housing, medical care and education.

Food security, defined as having “access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle”, is compromised for 14 percent of the American population, leaving 49.1 million Americans with limited access to consistent and sufficient quantities of food. In Massachusetts alone, 11.4 percent of households, or 700,000 adults and children, are concerned about where their next meal will come from each day. And that number is growing. Since last season, Agganis Arena has made strides to combat hunger in our city.

Agganis Arena’s new food salvation program in partnership with Boston Rescue Mission – one of Boston’s oldest continuous service providers offering food, shelter and social service programs to people living with homelessness in Boston – seeks to deliver leftover food after events to those in need. Since last spring, Agganis has donated salad, raw vegetables, and protein products from catering and concessions after each event.

The successful implementation and maintenance of this yearlong program is made possible by a number of individuals. The executive chef is responsible for ensuring safe packaging and temperature controls. Cold food must be secured in labeled plastic bags or containers below 41 degrees Fahrenheit within two hours to ensure freshness, and hot items are stored in hot boxes. Boston Rescue Mission staff then collects donations after hockey games, concerts, and other events.

One of the greatest challenges of implementing the food rescue program was ensuring safety and quality of donations. For Nicole Kindred, Arena Sales Manager, education about the law was key in orchestrating this program. Kindred cited the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donations Act of 1996, which protects good faith donors and partner agencies against liability should their donations later cause harm to its recipient, excepting only gross negligence or intentional misconduct. The rule of thumb is that, if donors would eat the food themselves, it is good to donate.

Agganis’s food donation and waste reduction efforts also contribute to larger statewide efforts. Since the Patrick administration implemented the Commercial Food Waste Disposal Ban this past October, 1700 Massachusetts businesses and institutions including colleges, universities, hotels, convention centers, restaurants and commercial food service companies have been challenged not to exceed one ton in food waste to landfill each year. This is critical in the Commonwealth’s goal to reduce the waste stream 30% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.

Agganis’ food donation program has also had a positive impact on the overall culture of sustainability and community at Agganis. Matt Sirois, general manager of food and beverage operations, says that this joint effort is “an opportunity to help those in need, as well as a small attempt to be sustainable.” Sirois believes that, “any efforts that can be made to help others, including this current program, give people a sense of pride and understanding.”

 

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