Rethink Food NYC: Transforming Leftovers into Nutritious Meals for the Hungry

by Gabrielle Khalife
Part of the Food Policy Community Spotlight Series

Name: Rethink Food NYC Inc.

What they do: Founded by Matt Jozwiak, former chef of the New York City restaurant that was named number 1 in the world –Eleven Madison Park– Rethink Food NYC is a non-profit organization that recovers and repurposes excess food from restaurants to provide low or no-cost meals to New York City families in need. The organization, launched just last Fall, was created in response to two astonishing statistics: (1) 1 in 4 New Yorkers face hunger, (2) 40 percent of all food produced in America ends up going to waste.

According to Wasted, 42 million Americans live with food insecurity and less than one-third of the food we throw out would be enough to feed every one of those people. Targeting food waste has multiple benefits for public health and our environment. Every time a bag of food is thrown out, it is much more than spoiled produce — it is a waste of labor, vehicle miles, fresh water and fertilizer, resulting in a waste of money and precious resources as well as an acceleration in our climate change. Food waste is responsible for at least 2.6 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions and is the number one contributor to landfills today. Waste occurs at all levels of our food system’s supply chain but primarily in households and restaurants. In fact, according to Wasted, restaurants and institutional food service providers together generate approximately two to four times the waste of grocery stores, retail supercenters and wholesale distributors combined. Therefore, by partnering with restaurants to turn scraps into meals for hungry New Yorkers, Rethink Food NYC takes an innovative and effective multidisciplinary approach to reducing hunger and improving our environment.

How they do it: The Rethink Food program takes excess food and trim from food distributors, restaurants and other service institutions (e.g. catering) and transforms it into delicious, safe, ready-to-eat meals for New York City food banks and other social service agencies. The organization’s current donors include some of NYC’s top restaurants and product suppliers, including Eleven Madison Park, Frankies Sputinos, Fleishers Craft Butchery and Baldor (see full list here). They collect and inventory all donations, transport them to the organization’s commissary kitchen and then Rethink Food chefs pasteurize and transform what they receive into ready-to-eat meals (in both family and institutional sized packages) for delivery to their distributor, the Food Bank of NYC.

Mission: To utilize excess food for those in need

Latest project/campaign: Scaling operations from pilot to regular hours in New York (to be completed in September) and then expanding to more locations

Major Funding: JB Foundation, Individual Donors

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual Budget: $510,000

Interesting fact about how it is working to positively affect the food system: Rethink Food NYC works with some of NYC’s top restaurants to create delicious and nutritious meals for NYC’s food insecure populations. To date, they have raised more than  $610,000 and served more than 11,000 meals.



1441 1st Avenue Apt. 1

New York, NY 11021

Core Program: Food Rescue

Number of staff: 7

Number of volunteers: 2-10

Areas served: Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan

Year Started: 2017

Director: Matthew Jozwiak

Contact Information: Contact Form

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