New York, the city of five-star restaurants, deli sandwiches and street meat on nearly every corner, is also the city where more than 1.4 million people don’t have enough food to eat.
On Tuesday, representatives from City Harvest picked up bread from Fairway and prepared food from Mount Sinai St. Luke’s- Roosevelt Hospital, and marked their 500 millionth pound of food delivered by the organization.
If you’re riding the subway and thinking about what to eat for lunch today, there’s people who don’t have the money to do that,” said Matthew Reich, vice president of food sourcing for City Harvest. “They’re thinking about paying their rent and MetroCard, and that’s a tremendous pressure. We’re not feeding the homeless, we’re feeding the working poor of New York.”
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To feed every hungry New Yorker, agencies would need to double their services to double the amount of work they're doing, said Reich, adding that there is plenty of food available in the U.S., it’s just not getting to those who need it but can’t afford it.
City Harvest provides fresh produce and food staples to 500 food programs in New York City, including soup kitchens, and day care and senior centers.
Reich said about 100 billion pounds of food is wasted across the U.S. every year, and every year about 300 million pounds of fruits and vegetables in New York State are left unharvested or unsold.
City Harvest gathers food from farmers and distributors, many in-state and along the Eastern Coast, with some as far away as Texas and California. Reich said City Harvest collects a lot of carrots from Quebec farmers because carrots need to be a certain length and diameter to be sold in stores, and many are grown too long or too short, or broken.
City Harvest’s 43 drivers and 21 trucks collect food seven days a week. Manhattan is dense, and well-covered, but Reich said more resources and trucks are needed to receive donations throughout the outer boroughs.
City Harvest’s historic delivery went to NY Common Pantry on East 109th Street, which was founded by a partnership of local churches and synagogues in 1980 to help neighborhood people who were eating out of neighborhood garbage cans.
Executive Director Stephen Grimaldi said 60 percent of the organization’s food supply -- which served 250,000 people last year, is donated, and the rest is purchased.
NY Common Pantry also has their own food rescue organization, with two employees and two vans doing daily pickups from local stores, restaurants and offices.
“What a pity wasting food is, especially in a city like New York, where there is an incredible disparity in the food people eat,” Grimaldi said.
“There is a lot of waste, yes, can we rescue more yes … you have to have partners willing to do it,” Grimaldi said.