Sharing the Abundance with Rock & Wrap it Up’s Syd Mandelbaum & David Acaro
September 24, 2015
John Shegerian: Welcome to another edition of Green Is Good. This is the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good here in beautiful downtown Chicago, and I am honored to have with me this morning Syd Mandelbaum and David Alcaro. Welcome to Green Is Good. Syd Mandelbaum: Thanks for having us. John Shegerian: Well, we’re going to be talking about Rock and Wrap It Up – your great organization – but before we get doing that, talk a little bit about the Syd Mandelbaum and David Alcaro story, the journey leading up to the founding of this, and then how you met, and then the founding of Rock and Wrap It Up. Syd Mandelbaum: Well, let me start. God bless America. John Shegerian: Yay. Syd Mandelbaum: They took my parents in who were Holocaust survivors in 1950, and I was born here in this country, and I felt if I could make a difference in my life, I wanted to do it in honoring and helping those of need here in the country that took them in. And it’s been a blessing because we have been able to change our small world that we are involved with. But the key for Rock and Wrap It Up is to inspire others that they can do and take the similar journey that we have done to change. John Shegerian: Got it. And when did you guys meet. David Alcaro: I think it was around 10, 12 years ago. Somewhere around there. Syd Mandelbaum: About 2002 I think. John Shegerian: And, David, what were you doing before Rock and Wrap It Up? David Alcaro: I was a floor trader on the New York Mercantile Exchange. John Shegerian: Really? David Alcaro: Yeah. Back when floor trading existed. John Shegerian: Right. David Alcaro: Back when hip trading happened. It was actually a New York Mercantile Exchange charitable foundation. John Shegerian: Oh. David Alcaro: Syd had an item – a Radiohead signed guitar, which is very, very special – and did a joint auction with the New York Mercantile Exchange Foundation and Rock and Wrap It Up. I ended up bidding and winning the item. John Shegerian: Nice. David Alcaro: So I got to meet Syd after the auction and he invited me to an event. But really what was key is he invited me to a food pickup and I got to experience picking up food from the party and saw from food being served and going out to the shelter. From soup to nuts, I saw everything. John Shegerian: And this was in New York. David Alcaro: Yes. John Shegerian: And you guys met. You’re both from New York originally? David Alcaro: Yes. John Shegerian: Brooklyn, New York? Syd Mandelbaum: Yes. John Shegerian: And where are you from, David? David Alcaro: Orange County, New York. John Shegerian: Orange County. Got you. Good. So talk then a little bit, Syd, about the founding of Rock and Wrap it up. What year did you found it, and what was its basic premise and mission? Syd Mandelbaum: Well, I’ve always been a deadhead, and we pretty much – I’ve always had an affinity for music. The Grateful Dead community has always been a giving one, and in 1987, I was active in the Kiwanis Club – the Five Towns, which is a service organization. A woman came and spoke and pretty much said, “I want to find a soup kitchen in Rockaway” – which was a very poor area at that time – “and I need help.” And some of us got together and one of the guys in the club had a bakery and he said, “I have day-old stuff every day. You could have it.” And then I said, “Well, in the mornings I could pick it up and bring it to another friend of mine who has a business in Rockaway and he’ll just bring it to you.” So we started that in 1987. John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: And eventually, I became president of that soup kitchen, called the Claddagh Inn Soup Kitchen, which I headed for five years. Along the way, I had been made Human Right Commissioner for Nassau County in 1985, and our first keynote speaker when we did an anti-bias workshop was Sandy Chapin, the widow of Harry Chapin. John Shegerian: Right. Syd Mandelbaum: And Harry had founded Long Island Cares, which was a regional food bank on Long Island. Sandy asked me to serve on her board of directors and at that time I wanted to see both vertical and horizontal imagining of how hunger and poverty could be alleviated, so I took that and I wound up serving 10 years on her board of this food bank. John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: And in 1990, she wanted to raise money, and one of the former managers of Harry Chapin was Ron Delsner, who was a rock impresario, and we met with Ron in his office and we begged him for money and he said, “I don’t have money, but there is always food leftover at Jones Beach Theatre and you’re welcome to it.” John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: And I said, “I’m active with a church that has a pantry and we would love to do that,” and in the summer of 1991, my wife and I picked up – with four other couples – 4,000 pounds of food from backstage catering Jones Beach Theatre. And we did that again in 1992 and 1993, and all the food would go to the Claddagh Inn. By 1993, an interesting thing happened. Backstage – one of the managers who got to know us and like us showed me a contract by the band The Black Crowes and in the contract it said – on a rider – “The Black Crowes need a quarter ounce of pot in each dressing room.” And I looked at it and I go, “How could they do that?” and he says, “Well, the point is that they are proponents of marijuana liberalization on the laws.” John Shegerian: Huh. Syd Mandelbaum: And it hit me like a thunderclap. I said, “Well, what if we want to save food? Could I put that in the rider?” and he said, “Syd, that’s a great idea,” and that’s how Rock and Wrap It Up was born. John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: We developed language – contractual obligation language for riders – so that bands that were already donating food could then do it nationally and then North American, and that’s how we founded Rock and Wrap It Up. And we went national in 1994. John Shegerian: Wow. Oh, that is just wonderful. So you went national in 1994. Now, we’re almost 21 years after the fact. Talk about the journey. How has the journey been, David? Then you joined on as the VP. How has that journey been? How many people have you fed? How much have you collected? And by the way for our listeners out there who want to learn more about Rock and Wrap It Up go to www.RockAndWrapItUp.org. So explain the 21 years. Give us a little taste of the journey. Syd Mandelbaum: I’ll start, then I’ll let David finish. John Shegerian: Yeah. Syd Mandelbaum: By 1995, we were the darling of the music industry and having done interviews with MTV – at the time MTV Radio – we had a huge article in Rolling Stone Magazine and became friends with Jann Wenner at the time, and that article really put us in a place that we had never been. We got called from the Chronicle Philanthropy – a huge journal – and Good Housekeeping Magazine did a full story on Rock and Wrap It Up. It was picked up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture through Dan Glickman – at that time Secretary – who reads Rolling Stone. He called me up and basically said, “Syd, what can we do to help you?” and by 1997, we launched the Rock and Wrap It Up school program, which would use the iconicness of rockstars to encourage students and kids to make sure that food from their schools would feed the hungry in their local communities. And that program was launched at the floor of the President’s Summit on Volunteerism in August 1997 with all living presidents at that time committing to have America become a nation of volunteers. And Glickman and I launched this, and that program is still going on. We reintroduced a brand new curriculum at this meeting, which we are at here at GSA and we have a brand new piece called the “Whole Earth Calculator,” named after a magazine I read as a kid called the “Whole Earth Catalogue.” John Shegerian: Sure. Syd Mandelbaum: And the Whole Earth Calculator enables our partners to transfer pounds of food that are donated into total meals that are the equivalency through the USDA and greenhouse gas emission reduction numbers that they could then send out as a tweet. John Shegerian: And where can our listeners and viewers…? Syd Mandelbaum: They can download it from the www.RockAndWrapItUp.org website. John Shegerian: Perfect. Syd Mandelbaum: And it is a free app. It’s a non-native mobile app, which can be used by anyone but the key is to put your hashtag #world in it and send it out to everyone. John Shegerian: Amazing. Syd Mandelbaum: So our sport teams – I’ll let David talk about our sports footprint. David Alcaro: Yeah, well since I’ve been involved in the past decade-plus, the growth in the sports industry has been massive for us. Starting working with the teams in New York City – the nine teams in New York – but now moving on to the entire National Hockey League, which was an amazing partnership. John Shegerian: Whoa. David Alcaro: Yeah. That was huge. Gary Bettman and his team, fantastic job getting us into every team picking up all their concession food. And now being in those arenas, you can also pick up from if they share it with the basketball team or when they have Disney on Ice, so there are so many food opportunities through sports, through the NHL, through other team sports and some of the other larger venues. We’ve done some stuff in NASCAR, PGA. Looking to grow more in those. John Shegerian: And that is why you are here at GSA continuing to foster the relationships you already have in sports but now expanding it into new leagues with new teams and new industries. David Alcaro: Yeah, well, sports is continuing to grow. Major League Soccer now is adding new franchises so you just have so much more out there and so much more available for us and that gives us more opportunity to find food and get it to people in need. John Shegerian: Did you guys also speak here at the GSA this week? Syd Mandelbaum: Yeah. I was asked to head a workshop on food recovery here in the Midwest region, and it was chaired by Julie Schilf who was the director. John Shegerian: Julie was on our show. She’s a wonderful lady. Syd Mandelbaum: Wonderful, wonderful partner of ours. John Shegerian: Yeah. Syd Mandelbaum: And what Rock and Wrap It Up has one, we’ve partnered nationally with both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the EPA, and we help them with a program called the Food Recovery Challenge, which is a national effort to sensitize business that they should be doing more, but more importantly, they should be telling people when they share their abundance. John Shegerian: Now, you said a little while ago, not only are you in rock and roll, not only are you now in sports and that’s why you’re here at the GSA, but also what you started with Glickman in the schools. Is the school still going and is that spreading? Syd Mandelbaum: The school is huge. In fact, the Whole Earth Calculator lesson plans, which I introduced yesterday to this audience – I was very humbled. I was asked to present at the National School Board Association Meeting in Nashville to 75,000 educators. John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: And people are just looking for ways to empower teachers to be motivated to teach kids about the environment. John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: And the Rock and Wrap It Up school programs are very much predicated on teachers being able – and hopefully, there are a lot of teachers listening to your program. John Shegerian: Right. Syd Mandelbaum: Contacting us, downloading the lesson plans – and it’s a two-day lesson plan, which is very, very visual. It starts with a discussion by Dr. Elise Golan – who is the Head of Sustainability at the U.S. Department of Agriculture – being interviewed by Bloomberg Television and talking about the work we did at the NFL Super Bowl last year where we introduced the Whole Earth Calculator to sports. John Shegerian: Wow. So for our listeners and viewers out there, Syd, that want to get involved that either love music, just love your mission, love sports, how can they get involved? By going to your website and doing what? What do you want from – how do you continue to grow this amazing mission and journey that your started 21 years ago? Syd Mandelbaum: Well, we have programs that are of all ages of students. So we have a program called “Snack Wrap,” which empowers five- and six-year-olds to take unopened healthy bag snacks that they don’t eat and share it with children that might be hungry in their schools – very, very decentralized. John Shegerian: Wow. Syd Mandelbaum: We have school programs, which teach to show that students can do exactly what their sports heroes do – take food from their schools and feed the hungry in their local communities. And they can sign up on the website. We also are doing a lot of work now with empowerment of anti-poverty projects. So if they are involved with hotels – we pick up right now toilet paper, shampoo, conditioners, because if you eat, you need toilet paper and the reality is that you can’t get it anywhere. John Shegerian: Right. Syd Mandelbaum: We get it for them from hotels. And we’ve just launched a brand new initiative in California called “Mardi Bra.” Last year, we did research and found that one of the truly difficult items for women are feminine products, and we had an event at the Sofitel Beverly Hills Hotel, and it was supported by one of our advisors – Sharon Osbourne. Sharon sent a tweet out to her hashtag database and we got hundreds of women, came in their fancy bras, bathing suit tops, halter tops and brought with them feminine products and shared them with the Homeboy Industries of L.A. and the Union Station Foundation of Pasadena. We are looking to expand that, and if you have women in your audience – as I’m sure you do…. John Shegerian: Yeah. Syd Mandelbaum: I would love them to contact us, because we want to do Mardi Bra in 20 cities next year, and we have now a commitment of eight cities that want to run an identical program that we did to collect these products for at-risk women and children. John Shegerian: So, Syd and David, the truth is if people go to www.RockAndWrapItUp.org there are so many ways they can be involved. Wherever they are there is something that they can do – whether it’s donating money, food, getting a hotel involved, getting their school involved, getting their kids involved – there are ways to step in and help your greater mission. That’s amazing. What a story. What a story. Well, we thank you both today for your time. This is just – I’m so glad we got to meet you, and you are always welcome back on Green Is Good. For our listeners and our viewers out there, it has been Syd Mandelbaum and David Alcaro, the founder and CEO of Rock and Wrap It Up and the VP of Rock and Wrap It Up. To find out more about Rock and Wrap It Up, please go to www.RockAndWrapItup.org. Get involved. Help make the world a better place. This is John Shegerian at the Green Sports Alliance edition of Green Is Good, and to learn more about the Green Sports Alliance, go to www.GreenSportsAlliance.org. Syd and David, you are making the world a better place. You are both blessings on this earth and you are truly living proof that Green Is Good. Thank you so much for being with us. Syd Mandelbaum: Thank you. David Alcaro: Thanks for having us. John Shegerian: Thank you.