In a world where millions of people go hungry every day, Rethink Food is proving a little innovation goes a long way. The New York City-based nonprofit also has a presence in Miami. By collaborating with small local restaurants, food businesses, food purveyors, and brands that have a surplus of ingredients, Rethink Food is making significant strides in feeding people in need while also minimizing food waste.
However, there’s one major myth Rethink Food would like to set the record straight on when it comes to food donation. While some speculate there could be legal issues, there’s no risk to donating food to a 501(c)(3) such as Rethink Food, according to a brand spokesperson.
This is thanks at least in part to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “In order to receive protection under the act, a person or gleaner must donate in good faith apparently wholesome food or apparently fit grocery products to a nonprofit organization for ultimate distribution to needy individuals. It does not cover direct donations to needy individuals or families. The act also provides protection against civil and criminal liability to the nonprofit organizations that receive such donated items in good faith.”
Rethink Food absolutely couldn’t function so flawlessly without its partnerships — which is why setting the record straight on this myth is so crucial.
Rethink Food’s Paramount Partnerships
With a remarkable track record of distributing more than 16.7 million meals and contributing $44 million to small and medium-size businesses, Rethink Food has forged meaningful connections with restaurants, food vendors, and catering establishments. Its mission revolves around collecting surplus food or unused ingredients from these partners and redirecting them to its commissary kitchen.
On a weekly basis, the renowned Chelsea Market food hall, located in the vibrant borough of Manhattan, New York City, generously contributes its surplus inventory to Rethink Food. This includes an array of items, ranging from fresh produce to untouched prepared goods that vendors haven’t managed to sell. Rethink Food takes charge of collecting these items and then skillfully incorporates these ingredients into delicious fare in its commissary kitchen.
Furthermore, Rethink Food has enjoyed a productive partnership with Whole Foods Market since 2021. This collaboration extends across six different locations throughout New York City, where Whole Foods Market graciously donates its excess food supplies to support Rethink Food’s mission.
Brookfield Properties and Union Square Hospitality Group have joined forces with Rethink Food to distribute meals, and the list of brands that want to work with Rethink Food is constantly growing.
Rethink Food’s co-founder, Chef Daniel Humm, built a partnership with his own restaurant, Eleven Madison Park, during the pandemic and became Rethink Food’s very first food donor. Humm transformed his acclaimed eatery into a communal kitchen, where he tirelessly prepared over a million meals for New Yorkers. The experience is something Humm said reignited his passion for why he got into the food industry in the first place.
“It was really satisfying, and I reconnected with food in a way I wasn’t connected to for a very long time,” Humm said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. “It gave us time to sit back and rethink everything.”
How Rethink Food Is Spearheading Change
A 2023 report produced in collaboration with McKinsey & Company highlights how Rethink Foods’ partnerships not only foster diversity but also provide a significant boost to businesses and vulnerable communities.
Moreover, the study meticulously examines the economic, social, and environmental ramifications of Rethink Food’s pioneering efforts, illustrating how supporting locally owned businesses can contribute to fortifying a more sustainable food system.
Rethink Food is changing the landscape of how excess food is rerouted. But what is the process behind how they do it?
“We collect food excess from every appendage of the food system,” Ken Baker, Rethink Food’s culinary director, said in an Instagram video. “Think retail grocery partners, corporate cafeterias, large-scale caterers, manufacturers, distributors, growers, and purveyors — and we bring all that excess back to the commissary, and we rethink it into nutrient-dense, restaurant quality meals to the tune of 10,000 meals a week.”
Rethink Food’s staff is equally as dedicated to helping communities gain access to nourishing meals.
“I really like the fact that we are providing help to our communities in New York City,” Oscar Gomez, senior manager of logistics at Rethink Food, said in an Instagram video. “Bringing quality and nutritious food to the people who need it the most.”
Michael Marcelli, who is the executive chef at Rethink Food and has spent two-and-a-half years there, shared a similar sentiment about his involvement with the group.
“I’m here because I believe that good food is a human right,” Marcelli stated in a Rethink Food Instagram post.
And like-minded individuals in the culinary space have jumped on board the Rethink Food train.
Said Baker, “We are an organization that’s underpinned by 100% of culinary and hospitality professionals, which uniquely gives us a built-in advantage technical skill set and professional expertise to be able to work rethinking this amazing unknown variable of donations that we receive on a daily basis into restaurant-quality, nutrient-dense meals.”
Baker emphasized that Rethink Food’s team is dynamic.
“It’s a very diverse team and that’s intentional to the diversity of the communities that we’re servicing in the world.
“And even in this diversity, we are uniting the culinary space with disparate and marginalized voices that would not be uplifted here. So in the commissary, where you’re a volunteer, a full-time culinary team member, an intern, we unite everyone under the banner of service to deploy this amazing mission.”
Rethink Food Raises Awareness With Cookbook
Rethink Food and its team are working tirelessly to not only spread the word about their mission to put excess food to better use. It’s also continuously brainstorming ways to connect with local communities on an even deeper level. Their latest creation, the Holiday Recipes E-Cookbook, offers a delightful opportunity to explore delectable sweet and savory recipes with a sustainable flair, all while making a positive impact on those facing hardship.