The idea of Rock and Wrap It Up! began in December 1990. Syd Mandelbaum, serving on the Board of Long Island Cares, a regional Food Bank, was introduced to Ron Delsener by Sandy Chapin. Ron had managed Harry Chapin, the late husband of Sandy. Syd had met Sandy years earlier when Syd was serving as Commissioner on the Nassau County Human Rights commission. Syd help found a series of teenager-centered tolerance-building seminars held at Hofstra University and Sandy Chapin was the conference's first keynote speaker. Syd had already help found a soup kitchen in 1987 in Rockaway Beach Queens, where his wife’s family was from. Sandy asked Syd to serve on the Board of Directors of Long Island Cares in 1988. Syd was able to get both vertical and horizontal first hand experience in how the reduction of hunger and poverty was being addressed, sadly with limited success. In the summer of 1991, Syd started the recovery of food that Ron had discussed in December 1990. Ron Delsener offered Syd access to recover food that was prepared but not served at Jones Beach Theater. This “rock star’ quality leftover food was recovered and brought directly to the soup kitchen Syd helped found in 1987. Syd realized that a more comprehensive approach was needed to help the poor. Syd also realized that if food was leftover at one venue where rock bands played, it probably meant that food was potentially available at every venue in the United States and elsewhere. Syd’s interest in the issues of hunger and poverty was influenced by his own personal history. Both of his parents are Holocaust survivors and almost starved to death as teenagers in Nazi concentration camps. Syd wanted to make a different in the country that accepted his parents in 1950, after they spent five years in a displaced persons camp in Germany.
Rock and Wrap it Up! was launched nationally Labor Day 1994 by Kurt Loder, who did a news piece as head broadcaster on MTV News. The piece ran all week end and 100’s of people contacted Syd to volunteer across America. (Kurt was an old friend of Syd’s who covered Tolerance Conferences that Syd helped to run. They met backstage in 1988 at a Joan Jett concert, the few men at the show.) Rock and wrap it Up! was officially born. Currently, 150 bands you RWU services across the US and Canada. In 1994, Rock and Wrap It Up! through future Board Member Leslie Leventman, co-founder of MTV Networks, started Project We Share! This corporate response to hunger was practiced by MTV in all cities where they filmed by donating food prepared but not served to partnering hunger fighting agencies. The 1994 MTV Video Music awards in Bryant Part, NY donated over 4,000 pounds of food. Rock and Wrap It up! Volunteer Natalie Mayo, Nine Inch Nails organist James Wooley and Ralph Cerilla, Howard Stern Show star participated in this 3 am food recovery effort.
In 1996, after an article in Rolling Stone, Syd was contacted by Dan Glickman, the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture. He saw the benefit what RWU was doing and offered the resources of the Department. In 1997, the Rock and Wrap It Up! School Program launched to empower school children to follow the lead of Rock Stars and not throw food into land fill which could feed hungry children. In 2000, the first College Wrap! Program was started at duke University by Tal Hirshberg, who had participated in the program in HS.
In 2002, an article in Detroit Hours Magazine about RWU peeked the imagination of Brooke Maroth. Brooke’s husband Mike, a pitcher on the Detroit Tigers had complained of food left over in the clubhouse in Comerica Park. This led to the start of Sports Wrap!, which arranges for the recovery of food from stadiums and arenas. Over 40 franchises in the NHL, MLB, NFL and NBA have RWU efforts. In 2006, RWU surveyed anti-poverty agencies throughout the US and found an increase of senior citizens using their services. Our first Advocacy project started In 2007. RWU wrote the Federal Food Donation Act. This law encourages federal buildings to donate food to the poor and keep it out of landfill. With the help of RWU Advisory Board Member Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson and RWU supporter, former Chief of Staff to Congressman Henry Waxman and current White House advisor, Phil Schiliro, the law was passed unanimously in 2008. In 2008 Hotel Wrap! was started through the needs to further green hotels. Room assets like partial toilet paper, tissue boxes, shampoo and conditioner, along with other hotel assets were repurposed and given to the poor through agency recovery efforts and kept out of land fill. Currently the Marriott, Grand Hyatt and Sheraton work with RWU. In 2009, Syd was asked to address a conference of film and TV executives and Project It’s a Wrap! was born. NBC Universal became the first network to partner with RWU through the Office of Sustainable Productions. Food prepared but not served from film shoots is recovered through out the US and Canada.
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