France’s food bank federation has a dozen football clubs among its partners, including major clubs such as Olympique Lyonnais and Olympique de Marseille.
Every day after a match, the food bank volunteers go to the stadiums of partner soccer clubs to collect unsold food and redistribute it to people in need.
Cooperating with food banks enabled Marseille to offer more than 22 tons of food to people in need between September 2019 and August 2020. At Lyon, between 3 and 6 tons of food were collected and offered per season.
“Unsold items vary according to the games”, explained Maëlle Trarieux, CSR manager of Lyon. For games with a high attendance, there can be as much as 500 kilogrammes of unsold food.
The partnership, in place since 2014 for Marselle side, has “an ecological interest, because it reduces organic waste”, explained Lucie Venet, director of OM Foundation, and Anne-Charlotte Blanc, head of CSR at Marseille. “But it also responds to a solidarity issue because the food is distributed to people in extreme poverty,” she added.
Lyon is equally enthusiastic about the programme. “When we entered our new stadium in Décines-Charpieu in 2016, we saw a much larger crowd,” said Trarieux, adding that “we quickly realised that we had to fight against food waste.”
With a branch near the stadium, the food bank was “the ideal partner to help us set up a circuit to recover unsold goods”, says Trarieux. These products would also be given “a social purpose […] by offering them to beneficiaries or social actors present on the same territory as us,” she added.
Waste reduction and commitment to a social cause are among the 15 eco-responsible commitments listed under a charter for sports event organisers launched in 2017 by the French sports ministry and WWF France. The charter has since been signed by many sports clubs, including Lyon and Marseille.
“Our activity has repercussions on society and the environment”, says Marseille. However, “as a key player in the territory, we have the opportunity to play a role of social cohesion,” the representatives of the clubs added. As part of a sustainable development approach, the club is committed to “strengthening its positive contribution to the region and society” and to limiting its environmental footprint.
However, the lockdowns followed by a resumption of competitions without supporters at football matches, have obviously broken this dynamic. At Marseille, the food orders that had been placed before the crisis all ended up being redistributed by the food bank.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox]