Rethink Food is dedicated to transforming the food system, and as 2024 kicks into gear, the visionary nonprofit is celebrating its wins throughout 2023 as it anticipates future initiatives. Viewing food as “sustainable,” “an equalizer,” and a “human right,” this charitable institution puts dignity and love into every meal it distributes, and the team behind it wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We are incredibly grateful to our team, donors, supporters, partners, and volunteers who have made these moments — and so much more — possible,” Rethink Food shared on its Instagram page.
Despite the ongoing economic hardships, supply chain issues, and other complications altering people’s lives throughout 2023, Rethink Food had many notable moments. Here are some highlights that made it a banner year for the organization working to make food more equitable to all.
Rethink Food Gets Its Own Day
In March, Rethink Food received a proclamation from New York City Mayor Eric Adams and NYC Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams, presented by Kate MacKenzie, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. As a thank-you to Rethink Food for reaching the milestone of dishing up 10 million meals to New Yorkers, March 27 was declared Rethink Food Day.
Rethink Food Helps Historic Public Housing Complex
The scarcity of nutritious food for residents of the Queensbridge Houses has been an ongoing struggle. The New York City neighborhood, in the borough of Queens, is the largest housing project in North America.
In September, Rethink Food handed out West African- and Mexican-themed cuisine to those in need in the area.
“As we started this work, it just brought a lot of joy and happiness, and in the morning, when I get up, I know that the work really matters,” said Eleven Madison Park restaurateur Daniel Humm, who is also a Rethink Food partner.
The story caught the attention of local news networks that have been closely following the area’s rising food and housing challenges.
Rethink Food Named a 2023 Gamechanger in ESG by CohnReznick
CohnReznick, a top advisory, assurance, and tax company, lauds the role of U.S.-based entities in the nonprofit, low-cost housing, green energy, and tech industries. These organizations are at the forefront of promoting environmental, social, and governance values. Their efforts aren’t only aimed at bolstering business resilience, but also at increasing value for all stakeholders involved. It’s no surprise that Rethink Food was deemed a 2023 Gamechanger in ESG by CohnReznick.
“We’re incredibly proud to receive this award and grateful for CohnReznick’s program to recognize U.S. organizations that are creating lasting change through sustainable practices,” a Rethink Food spokesperson shared. “Hand-in-hand with a network of like-minded restaurants and food businesses, we’re redefining how we can collectively impact not only the lives of the community we serve but also the environment around us.”
McKinsey & Company Analyzes the Work This New York Nonprofit Is Doing
Rethink Food teamed up with McKinsey & Company, a leading management consulting firm, to produce a report that explores the financial, societal, and ecological effects of its initiative with New York City’s local eateries to combat food scarcity.
The dossier found that Rethink Food’s model boosts employment, encourages hyperlocal spending, aids minority- and women-owned businesses, and makes a positive environmental impact by reducing food waste and feeding those who are most vulnerable.
“Insufficient access to nutritious food has been shown to perpetuate increased health care costs, diminished educational attainment, and reduced productivity for individuals and communities,” the report stated.
Rethink Food’s numbers support these findings. According to its 2023 year-end report, Rethink Food has passed out more than 1,500,000 meals to New Yorkers and helped put $4,450,000 into small restaurants and food vendors.
Rethink Food Releases Holiday Recipes E-Cookbook
With a mission to think outside the box when it comes to crafting solutions for America’s burgeoning hunger crisis, Rethink Food came up with a clever way to once again incorporate community and the joy of food. The entity compiled an e-cookbook available for a suggested donation of just $10. It’s downloadable at rethinkfood.org/holiday-season and proceeds go toward preparing meals for those in need.
The cookbook offers recipes from its legendary commissary kitchen, such as fresh corn polenta with quick jammy tomatoes and purple sweet potato coconut pie.
“This special edition is a celebration of our vision of mindful eating inspired by simple classic comfort recipes … with a sustainable twist,” Ken Baker, Rethink Food’s culinary director, said. “At Rethink Food’s commissary kitchen, we cook for a higher purpose every day — transforming excess food into meals and working to build better connections across our food system to support our local community.”
Where Rethink Food Is Heading This Year
Rethink Food’s partnership model is two-pronged: It teams up with small, local restaurants as well as operates a state-of-the-art commissary kitchen, forming a crucial nexus in its mission to combat food waste and hunger.
Since 2017, Rethink Food has provided more than 16.7 million meals to vulnerable communities through over 180 community-based organizations and, as a result, directed over $44 million to more than 130 small restaurants and food entities.
In its 2023 year-end report, Rethink Food shared that last year, it partnered with 44 restaurants and businesses across New York City, and over 75% of those are minority- or women-owned or spearheaded brands. Some of those restaurants include dim sum hot spot 3 Times, with several locations in NYC; Adda, an Indian eatery in Queens; and 46 Mott St. Bakery in Manhattan, which serves Cantonese desserts.
With its commissary kitchen in New York receiving roughly 11,500 pounds of food donations each week, Rethink Food continues to take on the challenges of feeding struggling communities by coming up with innovative, satisfying fare that celebrates diverse cultures and give people a meal that will not only fill them up, but also give them something to look forward to.
The organization intends to continue its mission to reclaim perfectly good food from being wasted and redirect it to feed the greater good, especially since about 40% of the nation’s food supply goes uneaten annually.
Nearly 7 million households experienced financial difficulties last year, leading to occasions where they had to forgo meals due to insufficient food availability, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture findings.
“The variability of each day’s donations requires an open mind, strong cooking techniques, a knowledge of flavor profiles, some niche expertise, and creativity to turn — let’s say — nutritional yeast, herbs, and vegan mayo into a green goddess dressing,” Rethink Food posted on Instagram.
“We’re so proud to work with such a talented team that embodies unparalleled inventiveness and care to build a more sustainable and equitable food system.”