Our Story

From day one, City Harvest’s focus has been feeding hungry New Yorkers, neighbors helping neighbors.

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 1.3 million New Yorkers struggle to put meals on their tables and we have scaled up our efforts to fight hunger. City Harvest will collect 59 million pounds of excess food this year and deliver it free of charge to 500 soup kitchens, food pantries and other community food programs 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. Click here for tips on starting a food rescue organization in your own community!

Healthy Neighborhoods

For many people that City Harvest serves, local stores don’t stock much healthy food, or when they do it’s too expensive. Through our Healthy Neighborhoods programs, we work with community partners in low income neighborhoods across New York City to improve access to healthy, affordable food. We do this by providing free fruits and vegetables through our Mobile Markets, and working with local food retailers to increase their ability to stock and sell healthy food. We also teach residents the basics of nutrition and how to shop for and cook healthy meals on a budget.

In addition to helping meet the immediate need for food, City Harvest takes a long-term approach to hunger relief through these programs which can be found in the South Bronx, Northwest Queens, the North Shore of Staten Island, Bed Stuy in Brooklyn, and Washington Heights/Inwood.

Our Mission

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.

Our History

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 35 years the organization grew to include 22 trucks, 160 staff members, thousands of volunteers, a Food Rescue Facility, and the generous support of many food and financial donors. To date, City Harvest has rescued and delivered over 600 million pounds of nutritious food for hungry New Yorkers.