Six Years of Rethink Food: Making Strides in Combating Food Waste and Alleviating Hunger

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( — December 7, 2023) — Nonprofit Rethink Food is revamping the way excess food is rescued. With 40% of the nation’s food supply going to waste and more than 34 million people in need of nutrient-rich meals, Rethink Food is helping to bridge the gap. Its commissary kitchen picks up excess ingredients from a wide range of partners across the food system to create community meals. It also partners with food establishments to fund the preparation of more repasts, some of which may utilize food that would have gone unused.

“We are so grateful for our community of partners and supporters from across the food system and beyond as we continue to build a more sustainable and equitable food system together,” Rethink Food shared on its Instagram regarding its six-year anniversary. “Let’s keep making a difference together.”

It’s been a busy year of making a difference for Rethink Food. The organization reported as of Q1 of this year, the organization has rescued over 240,000 pounds of donated food, saving more than 600,000 pounds of CO2 and 5.5 million gallons of fresh water.

It’s one of many reasons why Rethink Food was recently honored with a 2023 Gamechangers in ESG Award by advisory, assurance, and tax firm CohnReznick.

“We’re incredibly proud to receive this award and grateful for Cohn Resnick’s program to recognize U.S. organizations that are creating lasting change through sustainable practices,” said a Rethink Food spokesperson in a statement. “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.” 

With an ongoing mission to improve food equity for communities across America, Rethink Food has its headquarters in New York and has branched out to additional locations in Miami, Chicago, and Nashville, Tennessee. The group has also landed in the national spotlight, with New York City Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Council Speaker Adrienne E. Adams, alongside Kate MacKenzie, executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy. The trio designated March 27 Rethink Food Day. 

It’s also making changes on a federal level. In September 2022 Rethink was invited to the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health to highlight nationwide food equities and discuss tax credit incentives for donating food. 

“We’re always proud to share thoughts and insights on how we can collaboratively create lasting change in our food system and the incredible work our restaurant and community partners do day in and day out to serve their neighbors,” a Rethink Food spokesperson shared on Instagram. “Our model—which was born out of an unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic—now extends beyond the immediate crisis and has turned into a sustainable and efficient ecosystem that has provided over 15 million meals to food-insecure communities and directed over $50 million to small local restaurants and businesses to support meal preparation.”

Partnering predominantly with minority or women-owned local businesses, Rethink Food helps to whip up culturally conscious meals and distribute the packages to local community-based organizations and individuals experiencing hunger.

“The community spirit is beyond what I could have imagined,” A Rethink Food spokesperson revealed. “Across all our work, we’ve continued building connections that take excess food directly to alleviate food [issues]. Our restaurant partners take the care they put into their food and move it outside their four walls—making an impact that directly improves the lives of those around them. The response from our network of restaurant and [community-based organization] partners on how our work is essential is very gratifying.” 

One, Collective Fare, a Rethink Certified partner restaurant, has produced and distributed more than 347,000 meals. For a business to be Rethink Certified, it must integrate community support through its daily operations by preparing community meals or performing fundraising to support Rethink Food’s work. 

Rethink Food and Eleven Madison Park: Cooking Up Good Deeds

When he’s not whipping up Michelin-starred vegan meals inside Eleven Madison Park, chef and Rethink Food co-founder Daniel Humm is rolling up his sleeves for those in need. During the height of the pandemic, he converted his restaurant into a community kitchen to feed more than 1 million New Yorkers. 

“We have a unique opportunity to use this platform to create meaningful change for the future of fine dining and our connection to food,” Humm told Barron’s. “The pandemic highlighted that the food system needs to change how it operates in order to be more sustainable.”

When his restaurant reopened, he was so changed by all the events he decided to make his menu plant-based. 

He says every meal served at his restaurant creates five meals for someone in need through Rethink Food. He continues that philanthropic angle through Eleven Madison Home, where he distributes boxes of artisan granola, olive oil, coffee, tea, salts, spices, and other goods used in the Eleven Madison Park kitchen. 

“Every meal at Eleven Madison Park and every purchase from Eleven Madison Home contributes directly to this mission,” Humm told Barron’s. 

For Humm, it continues to be about expanding people’s perceptions of food and making an effort to be accountable for what we’re eating and feeding our communities. 

“So much of what we eat is part of our identity, and my wish is that people will open their minds to create new traditions for a better future. Looking at where your food is coming from, how it is cultivated, and our need for consumption, defines what is labeled luxury and what it isn’t. We need to address this to make a change for the future.”