Food Good experience Lifestyle

How Rethink Food Is Combating Hunger in the Most Expensive City in the World

Written by Jimmy Rustling

When it comes to feeding New Yorkers in need, Rethink Food is stepping up to the plate with a side helping of dignity and grace. A 2023 report developed in collaboration with McKinsey & Company found that 1 in 10 New Yorkers are uncertain about where their next meal will come from while living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. Rethink Food is dedicated to improving that problem one day at a time.

Currently serving meals to those in need in New York City, Chicago, Miami, and Nashville, Tennessee, Rethink Food is dedicated to strengthening community bonds and partnering with restaurants and grocery stores to make sure excess food ends up in the hands of those who need it rather than wasting it. Each week, the nonprofit procures thousands of pounds of donated ingredients and transforms them into fresh meals with innovative preparation and recipes by a team of expert culinary professionals .

Rethink Food recently made headlines in the Big Apple for its initiative to provide sustenance for residents of Queens’ Queensbridge Houses, the largest housing project in North America. Rethink Food co-founder and Eleven Madison Park restaurateur Daniel Humm acknowledged a need for food in Queensbridge and he and the Rethink Food team dished out Mexican and West African feasts. “Food is just such a powerful thing,” Humm said. “As we started this work, it just brought a lot of joy and happiness.”

Rethink Food has served more than  5 million meals since it started in 2017. Its partnerships with local restaurants have been paramount to getting meals to more of those in need, with more than 40 eateries and food businesses involved and $50 million going into NYC restaurants. Rethink Food’s X — formerly known as Twitter — recently shared coverage of Rethink Food and Brookfield Properties hosting multiple restaurant and food and beverage partners from Manhattan West for lunch to discuss expanding its reach in New York Cit y.

Research Shows the Power of Rethink Food’s Initiatives

Rethink Food collaborated with global consulting firm  single major food provider to prepare and convey meals to city agencies and community-based organizations.

Rethink Food’s sustainability model uses local restaurants that are predominantly minority- or women-owned local businesses to make meals and partners with City Harvest on New York state’s Restaurant Resiliency program . The $25 million grant program provides funding to restaurants opting to make meals for people within distressed or underrepresented commu nities.

The McKinsey report further examined Rethink Food’s positive influence on keeping dollars within New York City’s most vulnerable communities, increasing jobs by 50%, and broadening opportunities. It also looked into how upfront meal planning can decrease food waste. The report adds that there’s a goal to incentivize  more partners around local spending and strengthen employees’ lives with fair wages while bolstering community partnerships.

Rethink Food’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed: In March 2023, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams, and Kate MacKenzie, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy deemed March 27 Rethink Food Day for having handed out 10 million meals (at that time) to New Yorkers in need.

Father Michael Lopez, the executive director of Hungry Monk Rescue Truck/Monkworx, emceed the event. Hungry Monk Rescue has been a Rethink Food partner since 2020 and distributed more than 150,000 physically and culturally nourishing meals to Ridgewood, Queens, and Bushwick, Brooklyn .

Community Remains a Key Focus

Rethink Food recognizes that without teaming up with like-minded, community-based organizations, it wouldn’t be able to provide the ever-expanded outreach it does to address hunger issues.

Collective Fare, which started in 2019, is another Rethink Food collaboration in Brooklyn that’s led to over 347,000 meals being distributed there since April 2020. Spearheaded by Collective Fare owner LaToya Meaders and chef Femi Rodney Frazer, Collective Fare bills itself on its website as “an agri-food and hospitality services compan y.”

“Rethink came in literally in the clutch doing the work we were doing in Brownsville,” Meaders  said in a YouTube video . “To be a Rethink partner is amazing because of its support. Its community. Any advice I ever need. In order for us to make changes in the world, we have to start to think collectively.”

While getting through the pandemic in 2020 took its toll on the entire world, Meaders says Rethink Food helped her navigate through those uncertain times. “It was a lot getting through the pandemic not understanding what the next day was going to look like,” she said.

Meaders said much like Rethink Food, they make a point to ask the people receiving the food their opinion. “The people love the food and they love what we’re doing,” Meaders shared. “We engage with our community-based organizations and ask, ‘Did you like the salmon? Did the people like the salmon?’ It’s important to us to know what type of tastes and flavors are going into the community because we believe in serving people with dignity and respect.”

Meaders emphasized the importance of community and what it means to her. “Community means life,” she said. “We experience community through food. Community is the thing that binds us all. Community is hop e.”

That hyperfocus on community is what continues to fuel Rethink Food’s mission and garner new supporters.

“The importance of culture and diversity — learning a lot from different people and cuisine has been an incredible joy,” says Rethink Food’s co-founder Matt Jozwiak. “The community spirit is beyond what I could have imagined.”

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About the author

Jimmy Rustling

Born at an early age, Jimmy Rustling has found solace and comfort knowing that his humble actions have made this multiverse a better place for every man, woman and child ever known to exist. Dr. Jimmy Rustling has won many awards for excellence in writing including fourteen Peabody awards and a handful of Pulitzer Prizes. When Jimmies are not being Rustled the kind Dr. enjoys being an amazing husband to his beautiful, soulmate; Anastasia, a Russian mail order bride of almost 2 months. Dr. Rustling also spends 12-15 hours each day teaching their adopted 8-year-old Syrian refugee daughter how to read and write.