By 2027, Rethink Food, as part of a nationwide initiative to combat hunger by the Biden-Harris administration, pledges to rescue 10 million pounds of excess food from going to waste — or four times its yearly average. How does the nonprofit intend to achieve that? Connecting with local restaurants and food purveyors in the areas it serves is a paramount part of the plan.
Founder and executive chairman of Union Square Hospitality Group Danny Meyer says partnering with Rethink Food was an obvious move toward feeding more people in need, particularly given the shared goal of supporting local restaurants. “This community of people who work in restaurants, who work in not-for-profits, who work in food supply — they need each other, and we’ve needed each other more than ever over the past handful of years,” Meyer said. “I think Rethink played an incredible role in demonstrating how local restaurants can be powerful partners in addressing food insecurity.”
Meyer added he was instantly impressed with Rethink Food’s model of working with restaurants and local food entities to reduce waste and redirect that food to a greater purpose. He views the culturally inspired cuisine Rethink Food is whipping up with donated ingredients in its commissary kitchens as a true labor of love for everyone involved. “You can express your heart — not just from [within the restaurant], but beyond the four walls of your restaurant and then to each other,” Meyer mentioned.
When it comes to getting creative with recipes, Rethink Food thinks outside the box. The organization’s chefs brainstorm ways to elevate donated vegetables, fruits, proteins, and spices into mouthwatering masterpieces.
In order to team up with Rethink Food, each eatery must pledge to make 50,000 meals or more per year. In return, Rethink Food awards them $250,000 in funding to cover costs. A perk businesses can receive from being part of Rethink Food’s network is a boost to their brand. That’s good news for minority- or women-owned businesses who make up 80% of Rethink Food’s partners.
Rethink Food’s co-founder Matt Jozwiak says it’s a synergy to inspire positive change in vulnerable communities. While working as a chef himself, Jozwiak observed that he was no stranger to seeing perfectly good food end up unused and discarded.
“The Rethink Certified model will feed those in need while helping to stabilize restaurants — not just in times of crisis,” Jozwiak said.
The pandemic also didn’t help those with food stability issues or many restaurants experiencing hardships.
In a report developed in tandem with McKinsey & Company, before the pandemic broke out, an estimated 37 million Americans were already struggling to access food. The surging need for food caused many soup kitchens to run out of supplies.
Jozwiak said one of the main goals of Rethink Food was to decipher how they could get food in the bellies of those most in need of it and bolster businesses while keeping them operating safely. Thanks to Rethink Certified, 2 million meals were served by more than 40 partner restaurants. As a result, more than 100 jobs sprouted organically. “Our goal is to create lasting change in our communities,” Jozwiak emphasized.