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Unsold PNC Park concessions will help to feed the hungry

PNC Park used to scrap or recycle leftover concessions.

Not anymore.

Beginning with today's home opener, park vendors will donate unused food from 81 home games to shelters and soup kitchens to feed the hungry.

"There's so much opportunity for a lot of food to now get put to use, instead of being wasteful," said Matt Nordby, a Pirates spokesman.

More than 250 tons of uneaten food from PNC Park last year went to recycling sites to become compost. Workers pitched the rest.

The team is coordinating food donations through a partnership with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Rock and Wrap It Up!, a New York-based nonprofit that works to eliminate hunger and poverty by recovering food from concerts and sporting events.

"Nobody should be throwing out food," said Abby Kaish, coordinator of Sports Wrap!, a division of the nonprofit that works directly with sports teams and arenas.

The program connects those with leftover food with those who need it, Kaish said.

This season, the group convinced the 30 National Hockey League franchises to donate food after games.

The Penguins started in October, with the opening of Consol Energy Center. The team is the most charitable franchise in the United States, having donated more than 10 tons of food -- equivalent to 15,248 individual meals, the Penguins said.

Like many U.S. and Canada arenas, Consol Energy Center donated leftover food from every event, such as concerts, Rock and Wrap It Up! CEO Syd Mandelbaum said.

The program's success comes from the dedication of its participants, Kaish said.

"We have people that make sure we get every stitch of food," Kaish said.

That means everything from hamburgers and hot dogs from the stands to gourmet food prepared for athletes and luxury boxes.

The Penguins' success helped convince the Pirates to get on board, said Corey Hawk, food-service solicitor at the food bank. PNC Park tried to donate in limited capacity before, but not consistently, he said.

"We designed a plan to work around their business," Hawk said.

Aramark and Levy Restaurants manage food service at the park. Aramark runs concession stands and Levy is the exclusive caterer for luxury suites. Both companies signed on.

"It's the right thing to do," Nordby said. "We love being able to give back to the people in the area."

The Point Park News Service is a joint project of Point Park University and this newspaper.

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