Our interview with Syd Mandelbaum, Rock and Wrap it up!

We are proud to call the Food Rescue think tank, Rock and Wrap it Up! A Partner of ours. 

By Anna Sacks, Senior Associate, Think Zero LLC

Rock & Wrap It Up is an award-winning anti-poverty think tank that has operated for 28 years.  Think Zero LLC has been working with the organization for the past year on diverting unused toilet paper from commercial buildings to shelters and organizations serving those in need.  It has been a great partnership because, surprisingly, we often find half-full rolls of toilet paper being tossed because the cleaning staff needs to ensure there is a full roll of toilet paper available 24/7.  

Syd Mandelbaum scholarship.jpg

Anna: How did you get started?

Syd: We started by recovering food from backstage at the Jones Beach Theatre in 1991.  Most rock bands traveled with full catering staff and would have leftovers at the end of the night.  I was doing various philanthropy work and I learned that there was always leftover food at Jones Beach. So I asked if we could recover the food.  And from there we became the food recovery organization for some of the largest bands in the world including Aerosmith, Phish, 9 Inch Nails, Michael Bolton, etc.   It was 160 bands around the world.   

One of the things I did was develop a contractual stipulation that was placed put into the band’s contracts and it stated that the caterers could not throw away the food.  They had to call Rock and Wrap It Up. So we found partners in all the big cities and when we got a call we would connect the partner with the catering company.

Anna: Are you still working with rock bands?

Syd: No, not really, as rock bands do not travel with caterers anymore, they just order food off menus.  Now a big source for us are the sports teams and their stadiums plus the movie studios. All of the arenas work with us to donate food.

Anna: How did you move from music to sports?

Syd: We were interviewed in Detroit and the wife of a Detroit Tiger Pitcher, Brooke Maroth and her husband Mike got in touch with us and we started with the food at their stadium.  When they came to play in NYC, I met them and got an introduction to the NY Giants and now I work with the Mets, Yankees, Giants, and Jets. And now we have Madison Square Garden.  We work with over 80 teams nationwide.

Anna: What do you accept food wise?

Syd: We take whatever is prepared and not sold.  We ask that it be frozen and then is picked up by affiliates.

Anna: What non-food items do you take?

Syd: We take paper products and hotel items. Marriott is a big partner of ours.  We also work with colleges at move-out time to pick up items that college students are tossing as they move out (e.g., lamps, toaster ovens, pillows, etc.).  We are now also working to source feminine products with our newest initiative (Hannah’s Project) as that is in high demand at shelters, soup kitchens, and food banks.  

Anna: Who is an affiliate?

Syd: An affiliate is an organization that we have vetted.  The need to have an ongoing program. They need to have a health certificate and we review them before they join our program.  

Anna: How can organizations work with Rock and Wrap it Up?

Syd:  We have a simple model.  We have a network of affiliates in cities all over the US and we connect corporations with these partners and help get food and other items to those who can use them.  We ask for a $15 donation for each pick-up to support our work.

One thing I like to highlight is that we have also developed a Whole Earth calculator that calculates the greenhouse gas emissions that are diverted, and water that is saved as a result of the donation – corporations can access it and use the information for their reporting or external marketing. You can download the app and get the information from our website.  

Thanks, Syd for taking the team to speak with us!

To learn more about the organization please visit their website www.rockandwrapitup.org