Rethink Food Prepares Restaurant-Quality, Nutritious Meals for the Food-Insecure

by Marissa Sheldon, MPH
Rethink Food

Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Rethink Food

What They Do: Rethink Food is a nonprofit organization in New York City that works with partners across the city’s food ecosystem to provide restaurant-quality, culturally appropriate, and nutritious meals to communities in need. The organization was founded in 2017 by Matt Jozwiak, who has worked in the restaurant and hospitality industry for many years and wanted to make use of the perfectly edible excess food in restaurant kitchens that was being thrown away each night while so many people on the NYC streets were asking for food. 

Rethink Food rescues excess, still-edible food from restaurants, corporate kitchens, grocery stores, and other food service and wholesale establishments, uses it to prepare meals at their community kitchen, then distributes the meals through community-based organizations (CBOs) to food-insecure individuals. In addition, the Rethink Certified restaurant program works with partner restaurants (more than 30 in NYC as well as seven in Miami) that cook tailored meals to provide directly to a CBO with specific dietary needs or preferences. 

Through a recent partnership with the City of New York, many meals are now being served to newly arrived immigrants and asylum seekers who are staying at city humanitarian shelters.

Rethink Food’s work is centered around a commitment to dignity, cultural competence, and high-quality meals.

How They Do It: Rethink Food’s process starts and ends in the community. They first determine the food needs and preferences of those served by each CBO, as well as the CBO’s capacity for storing and distributing meals. Based on this information, Rethink Food’s Community Kitchen prepares curated meals that meet the community’s cultural and religious preferences, and the meals are delivered at no cost by Rethink Food’s own trucks to a network of CBOs to distribute to their community. 

Alternatively, the Rethink Certified program will connect a restaurant with a CBO to meet their specific needs. For example, if a CBO serves a population that is primarily from one ethnic background, Rethink Food might engage a partner restaurant in the area that serves that ethnic cuisine. The restaurants may deliver the meals to the CBOs using their own trucks, or, if that is not an option, Rethink Food also works with a third-party logistics company that can help with delivery services. 

All meals follow nutritional standards and guidelines and contain a vegetable and a starch to make a complete meal. Rethink Food consults with dietitian Maya Feller, whose work focuses on an “anti-bias, patient-centered, culturally humble approach” to nutrition, to develop these standards. 

Mission: To create a sustainable and equitable food system. 

Latest project/campaign: On March 27, 2024, Rethink Food opened its new Community Kitchen in Greenwich Village. In addition to the kitchen space where donated excess food and ingredients are made into meals for food-insecure individuals, the facility includes a dining room that serves as a multi-use space for the public to engage in educational sessions, dinner series with chefs, and other events. This new location in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods of NYC serves as a beacon of hope while reminding local residents that there are many needs still to be met. 

Major Funding Sources: Private philanthropy (board of directors, individuals, family and corporate foundations), and restaurant partners that are fundraising for the organization as part of their operations.

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: $11.3 million

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Since 2017, Rethink Food has recovered more than 2.4 million pounds of excess food to convert into meals and has provided more than 23.8 million meals for New Yorkers. Each week the new Greenwich Village Community Kitchen prepares more than 18,000 meals that are distributed free of charge seven days a week to all five boroughs. 

As part of the Rethink Certified program, Rethink Food has also directed more than $100 million in small grants to small, local restaurants and food businesses to support meal preparation. 

116 West Houston Street
New York, NY 10012

Core Programs: Food rescue, meal preparation and distribution

Number of staff: 45

Number of volunteers: 15 on Board of Directors + more than 440 volunteers in 2023

Areas served: New York City and Miami

Year Started: 2017

Founder and CEO: Matt Jozwiak

Contact Information: Phone: (212) 364-7040 | 


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