About Us

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions about City Harvest

Q: What does City Harvest do?
Q: Is City Harvest a national organization?
Q: Where does funding for City Harvest come from?
Q: Is City Harvest approved by the Better Business Bureau?
Q: How are you different from Meals on Wheels or local food banks?
Q: City Harvest is a great idea. Do other countries have anything like it?
Q: Does City Harvest serve people with special dietary needs?

Questions about donations

Q: What food is acceptable to donate to City Harvest?
Q: What food is not acceptable to donate to City Harvest?
Q: Does City Harvest accept leftovers?
Q: What about food safety?
Q: Does City Harvest accept all kinds of food?
Q: How can I package my donation?
Q: I'm throwing a catered event. Will City Harvest be able to pick up any excess food?
Q: Will City Harvest pick up from private residences?
Q: I'm usually very busy. Does donating to City Harvest take a lot of time?
Q: I'd like to donate food, but I'm concerned about liability. Will I be held responsible if someone falls ill after eating food I donated?

Questions about Volunteering

Q: I'd like to volunteer with City Harvest. Could they use my help?
Q: How can I start a food rescue program like City Harvest in my community?

Questions about City Harvest

Q: What does City Harvest do?
A:
City Harvest is the nation's oldest food rescue organization, dedicated to feeding hungry people in New York City. City Harvest picks up excess food from places such as restaurants, grocers, manufacturers and wholesalers, and greenmarkets, and delivers the food to soup kitchens, food pantries, day care and senior citizen centers, homeless shelters and other places that serve those in need. This year, City Harvest will rescue 50 million pounds of excess food from food establishments throughout the city and across the country.

Q: Is City Harvest a national organization?
A: Although we accept food donations from anywhere in the U.S., City Harvest distributes food only to the five boroughs of New York City. We do, however, partner with people and organizations elsewhere to encourage food rescue in local communities. Today, more than 30 years after our founding, there are food rescue organizations around the globe, with 150 in the U.S. and Canada alone.

Q: Where does funding for City Harvest come from?
A: 99% of City Harvest's funding comes from private sources, although we do receive small yearly grants from different federal, state and municipal sources.
Learn how you can donate to City Harvest.

Q: Is City Harvest approved by the Better Business Bureau?
A: Yes! City Harvest meets all Better Business Bureau Charity Standards.

Q: How are you different from Meals on Wheels or local food banks?
A: City Harvest is the only food rescue program in New York City. We focus on collecting prepared and perishable food that would be wasted. We then transport this donated food immediately, safely and free of charge to soup kitchens and other emergency food programs throughout the city.

Food banks, by comparison, as a rule receive bulk donations of non-perishable items such as dried and canned foods. They store these donations in warehouses until member agencies can collect their monthly allotment.

Meals on Wheels programs buy food, prepare meals and deliver them to the homebound elderly. In contrast, City Harvest serves people of all ages and walks of life who are in need, such as children, the elderly, homeless and disabled, people with HIV/AIDS, and others.

Q: City Harvest is a great idea. Do other countries have anything like it?
A: While City Harvest distributes food only to the five boroughs of New York City, we are a model for the rest of the world. We have helped launch food rescue programs in Germany, England, India, South Africa, Brazil, Israel, and elsewhere. Visitors from all five continents have come to study our work and take back ideas for solving their own hunger problems.

Q: Does City Harvest serve people with special dietary needs?
A: City Harvest launched a Kosher initiative to respond to the growing need for emergency food for people who observe kashrut dietary laws. We try to work with all of our agencies to make sure the food they receive is appropriate for the population they serve. Given the great diversity in our city, we know that there are thousands of people who would rather go hungry than eat food that goes against their moral or religious beliefs. And given the great diversity of available food in NYC, we know that this doesn't have to happen.

Questions about donations

Q: What food is acceptable to donate to City Harvest?
A: City Harvest can safely accept:

  • Food from a regulated food company.
  • Whole fresh produce without significant decay
  • Chopped fresh produce packed separately in food-grade packaging
  • Prepared foods chilled to 40° F that have not been served or placed on a buffet
  • Chilled perishable packaged foods such as juice and cheese in their original packaging
  • Frozen or fresh meat, poultry and fish
  • Dairy products 40°F to expiration date
  • Shelled eggs
  • Frozen foods in original packaging
  • Baked goods (day-old bread, bagels, and other bakery items)
  • Canned and packaged goods in original packaging

Get more information about our food donation guidelines.

Q: What food is not acceptable to donate to City Harvest?
A: City Harvest is unable to accept:

  • Food that is not from a regulated food company
  • Home prepared food
  • Stale bread or baked goods
  • Foods that have been served or put on a buffet table
  • Foods that have been previously reheated
  • Foods that have been kept in the temperature danger zone for more than 2 hours
  • Foods with damaged or compromised packaging, resulting in the loss of a sanitary barrier protection
  • Produce with significant decay
  • Frozen foods with freezer burn
  • Sushi or any seafood intended for raw consumption
  • Open, punctured, bulging or seriously damaged canned goods
  • Any food containing alcohol

Get more information about our food donation guidelines.

Q: Does City Harvest accept leftovers?
A: City Harvest cannot accept food that has been served, or food deemed unsafe by our drivers and food safety staff. We collect good, unused, wholesome food that would otherwise be wasted from regulated food businesses such as restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets, wholesalers and local greenmarkets. We do not accept prepared food from private citizens. Find out what food we can accept.

Q: What about food safety?
A: Handling food safely is of paramount concern to City Harvest. To learn more about
City Harvest's Food Safety Guidelines for donations, please click here.

Q: Does City Harvest accept all kinds of food?
A: Yes, we accept fresh food, refrigerated and frozen food, dried foods, food in boxes, cans, and bottles, baby food and formula. The only food that City Harvest cannot accept is food that has been served or deemed unsafe by our staff.

Q: How can I package my donation?
A: We supply clear, food-grade bags. If you can provide your own packaging for donations that require more than a plastic bag you help City Harvest use its resources most effectively. But we don't want packaging to get in the way of your good intentions. Call us.

Q: I'm throwing a catered event. Will City Harvest be able to pick up any excess food?
A: Yes, we can pick up the chilled leftovers the next day. We get many useful donations from catered events such as weddings, conferences, and office parties.

Q: Will City Harvest pick up from private residences?
A: City Harvest accepts food drive donations from private individuals year-round.

Q: I'm usually very busy. Does donating to City Harvest take a lot of time?
A: In the time it takes to throw away excess food, you could package it for donation to
City Harvest instead. We do all the paperwork, and our drivers will give you a receipt for your donation, as well as a year-end report covering all your donations. Donating to City Harvest is an easy, efficient way to be generous.

Q: I'd like to donate food, but I'm concerned about liability. Will I be held responsible if someone falls ill after eating food I donated?
A: You are protected from liability. Federal and New York State Good Samaritan Laws limit liability for food donations. Read the laws. For more information on running a food drive click here.

More importantly, City Harvest's staff and drivers are trained in industry-standard food handling guidelines, and have the authority to refuse food that does not meet quality standards.

Questions about Volunteering

Q: I'd like to volunteer with City Harvest. Could they use my help?
A: Absolutely! Volunteers are the lifeblood of City Harvest. More than 2,000 volunteers help
City Harvest collect food from greenmarkets and large events, assist drivers on trucks and perform office duties. Find out how you can become a City Harvest volunteer and lend your time to this great cause.

Q: How can I start a food rescue program like City Harvest in my community?
A: We've put together a short guide to starting your own food rescue program.