City Harvest pioneered food rescue in 1982 when we saw the abundance of excess food and recognized the practical purpose it could serve in filling the plates of the working mom who had trouble making ends meet at month’s end, the senior in the apartment upstairs living on a fixed income, and the family around the corner coping with a large and unexpected medical bill.
Today, nearly 1.4 million New Yorkers struggle to put meals on their tables and we have scaled up our efforts to comfight hunger. City Harvest will collect 55 million pounds of excess food and deliver it free of charge to 500, and other across the five boroughs. By redirecting this nutritious food from supermarkets, manufacturers, farmers markets, and restaurants to our neighbors in need, we support our local communities and reduce the environmental impact of food that would otherwise go to waste.
For many people that City Harvest serves, local stores don’t stock much healthy food, or when they do it’s too expensive. Good nutrition is critical to eliminating hunger and so we’re also working with residents, local organizations and businesses to bring free excess produce, and more affordable fresh fruits and vegetables, to these communities through Healthy Neighborhoods programs. Our programs, which include classes on how to shop for, and cook, healthy meals on a budget, can be found in the South Bronx, Northwest Queens, the North Shore of Staten Island, Bed Stuy in Brooklyn, and Washington Heights/Inwood.
City Harvest exists to end hunger in communities throughout New York City. We do this through food rescue and distribution, education, and other practical, innovative solutions.
It started with a potato.
Our first Executive Director, Helen verDuin Palit, had been working at a soup kitchen and saw how difficult it was to feed all the people who came in for lunch. While eating a potato skins appetizer at a nearby restaurant, she asked the chef what he did with the insides of the potatoes. When he told her that this unused portion was discarded, Helen said that the soup kitchen could really use the food that the restaurant was able to offer. The next day, the chef donated 30 gallons of cooked potatoes – which the kitchen used to thicken the soup it was serving. This quick meal out with friends led to the creation of City Harvest in December of 1982.
Thanks to Helen, Jason Kliot and several other New Yorkers who were troubled by the large numbers of people who didn’t have enough to eat, and the amount of good quality excess food going to waste, the smart and simple idea of food rescue was born. They reached out to restaurants and retailers, enlisted friends, borrowed cars, and set up a hotline. With only volunteers in their own cars for the first seven months, hundreds of thousands of pounds of food was collected and delivered. All of the food was picked up and immediately delivered to soup kitchens and food pantries.
Over the next 33 years the organization grew to include 22 trucks, 160 staff members, thousands of volunteers, a, and the generous support of many food and financial donors. To date, City Harvest has rescued and delivered over 545 million pounds of nutritious food for hungry New Yorkers.