Inventing Food Rescue: City Harvest™ Unites Volunteers to Feed New Yorkers in Need

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Inventing Food Rescue: City Harvest™ Unites Volunteers to Feed New Yorkers in Need

Jon McDonald Jon McDonald • 2/08/17

The Short Version: Founded in 1982 as the world’s first food resource organization, City Harvest collects surplus food and distributes it free of charge to soup kitchens, food pantries, and other community food programs across New York City. The organization was founded by concerned citizens, and 34 years later, volunteers play an important role. There are 15,000 volunteers who donate their time, skills, and energy each year. New Yorkers have the chance to be of service while simultaneously uniting with others who have similar values and passions.

According to the 2014 Self-Sufficiency Standard Report, 42% of households in New York City do not bring in enough income to cover necessities like food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and health care. They do, however, earn too much to qualify for government assistance.

Food costs have increased by more than 50% in NYCsince the year 2000. This increase, coupled with a disproportionately small increase in household earnings, is the primary reason why so many New Yorkers don’t bring in enough to cover their basic needs.

Photo of the City Harvest logo

City Harvest was founded in 1982 and helps feed nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers each year.

City Harvest pioneered food rescue in 1982 to redirect quality food from around the city that would otherwise go to waste. First, the organization collects excess food from various segments of the food industry, including restaurants, bakeries, farmers markets, manufacturers, farms, and corporate cafeterias. Food is then delivered free of charge to 500 soup kitchens, food pantries, and other community-based programs across the city.

The organization also provides New Yorkers with a variety of different ways to get involved. In addition to providing volunteer opportunities, City Harvest hosts a series of annual events.

City Harvest creates an ideal environment to connect with people who share altruistic values and want to fight hunger in New York City.

Delivering Rescued Food to Feed 1.4 Million Hungry New Yorkers

Having collected and distributed over 600 million pounds of food since their inception, City Harvest pioneered food rescue to bring nutritious food to as many hungry people as possible. In the United States alone, more than 40% of the food produced goes to waste. This statistic is unsettling, particularly in a city like New New York where such a large percentage of households lack adequate resources to provide for their families. City Harvest recognizes that by retrieving good, quality products so they can make a big difference in fighting hunger.

Photo of City Harvest volunteers

With their fleet of refrigerated trucks, City Harvest has rescued over 600 million pounds of food.

By redirecting food instead of wasting it, City Harvest is not only feeding folks in need, but they’re simultaneously preventing more than 500,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas from being produced. This works out to the equivalent of taking 100,000 cars off the road every single year, and that makes a profound impact on the environment as well.

City Harvest’s Food Rescue Facility in Long Island, Queens, measures 45,400 square feet. The refrigerated warehouse allows the organization to deliver and store significant amounts of quality meats and produce for distribution. The freezer and coolers inside the facility can safely hold perishable products until they can be loaded onto their trucks and delivered to their final destinations.

City Harvest aslo hosts volunteer repack here to break down bulk donations into family-sized portions for soup kitchens and food pantries.

Volunteer Opportunities Offer Chances for Altruistic Connections

City Harvest supporters have the option to participate in a variety of events put on by Generation Harvest, the organization’s young philanthropy group.

Photo of a City Harvest Happenings rooftop party

Through Harvest Happenings, volunteers and supporters of City Harvest can meet up and mingle.

Purchasing a Harvest Happenings package not only means you’re contributing to a fantastic cause, but you’re also setting yourself up to mingle with other service-minded locals. The Plus One Package gives the holder an ideal opportunity to bring someone to some cool events throughout the city. The Individual Package, on the other hand, means you can attend events solo, where you’re likely to meet other locals who share the desire to make a difference.

Both packages provide access to exclusive food and drink events, invitations to the City Harvest Insiders speaker series, and group volunteer activities. Plus, enjoy ticket discounts and upgrades to other signature City Harvest events such as An Evening of Practical Magic and Summer in the City.

Volunteers, Donations, and Corporate Support Maximize Impact

City Harvest is made possible because of generous donors, volunteers, and thousands of corporate supporters consisting of local companies and small businesses. Food donors include corporations (like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s), production companies (like MTV), caterers, coffee bars, restaurants, grocers, hotels, manufacturers, farms, and other food suppliers.

Photo of City Harvest volunteers

From Individuals to large corporations, City Harvest is always looking for volunteers and partners.

The organization also offers a variety of ways to volunteer, donate, and get involved to maximize efforts to fight hunger. Businesses can even form partnerships to align their brand with City Harvest’s mission and make a financial commitment. Sponsorships, partnerships, and volunteer opportunities are great ways for individuals and companies to team up with an organization doing meaningful work.

Making a Huge Difference in America’s Biggest City

The percentage of folks struggling to make ends meet in New York City is high relative to so many other cities in the United States. Not having access to adequate, nutritious food can lead to major health risks and other hunger-related illnesses that are easily preventable with proper nutrition.

Thanks to City Harvest, a huge number of the people in America’s largest, most densely populated city, don’t have to go to bed hungry. By redirecting food waste and distributing it to facilities where people can get meals, the organization also helps prevent many tons of greenhouse gas from being produced each year. This is great news for the environment.

City Harvest also has opportunities for volunteers to meet like-minded folks who enjoy giving back to the community. Getting involved with City Harvest means you can make some wonderful connections along the way. You’ll also be doing something good for your beloved city, which certainly sounds like a win-win.