Rethink Meals looks to serve 10,000 meals per week to those in need

Rethink Food’s journey began with a simple yet powerful idea: transforming excess food from restaurants and grocery stores into delicious and nutritious meals for underserved communities. The organization has grown rapidly since its inception and is expanding its operations to meet the increasing demand for food aid.

The need for such services is more acute than ever. In cities like New York and Miami, the gap between food abundance and the prevalence of hunger is an ongoing issue. Rethink Food has stepped in to bridge this gap, not only by providing food, but also by providing a ray of hope.

Every week, Rethink Food’s dedicated commissary kitchen team – along with an army of volunteers – takes on the vital task of preparing and delivering 10,000 meals. This process runs like a well-oiled machine. All surplus ingredients pass through its commissary kitchen in New York. ReThink Food’s restaurant partners cook the food and deliver it to local organizations.

Serving the five boroughs of New York City, the organization’s commitment to not only providing food, but nutrition, is evident in the quality of the meals prepared. Each meal is a carefully crafted blend of nutrition and taste, ensuring that those who receive them have a culturally fulfilling dining experience.

Sharing Is Caring: The Secret Ingredient of Rethink Food Recipes

According to the research paper “Food for Love: The Role of Food Offering in Empathic Emotion Regulation”, giving someone a meal has positive effects on both the recipient and the provider. “We further propose that the sharing of food resources as well as the use of food as a support behavior increases interpersonal closeness,” the paper reads.

You don’t have to be a psychologist to see that phenomenon in real life. “For us, food isn’t just a meal – it’s a conscious culinary experience designed to serve our neighbors with dignity and respect,” said Ken Baker, culinary director of Rethink Food.

The community-based organization Agape Food Rescue has distributed over 76,000 meals as a result of its partnership with Rethink Food and small local restaurants. Lex and Janet Lugo are proud that they are making a difference in feeding people while also promoting environmental sustainability.

“We have 42 different housing projects that we are a part of,” Janet Lugo said in a video shown on Rethink Food’s Facebook page. “We are able to bring in over 1,000 meals a week. Today, we got lots of compliments about coconut rice with some beautiful broccoli and a nice piece of salmon.

Lex Lugo said that while culturally relevant is a term that gets thrown around often, Rethink Food and its partners take it seriously.

“It has to be something that tastes good. It must be something that comes with love. The most important thing is that you have people who are used to eating home-cooked food. And this is a big part of their food respect. So it should be cooked by people who have that understanding.”

Janet Lugo emphasized that anyone can get something to eat, but they are going to great lengths to make a difference. After spending 16 years in the Marine Corps, she says giving back has become an essential part of her life.

“When you get something that tastes good and you can enjoy, everything around you feels better, hence the term ‘comfort food,'” Lugo said. “People are trying to figure out how to pay their rent or just get basic necessities. We are very happy to be associated with a great group of people like Rethink Food who understand that being able to feed someone with dignity is everything.

“When you can deliver a meal and hope that tomorrow will be a better day, that’s how you build community. You do it one kindness at a time, and that’s what Rethink Food has allowed us to do.”

The impact of Rethink Food’s work goes far beyond the physical nutrition provided. For many recipients, these meals represent a lifeline, a sign that they have not been forgotten by society. The psychological impact of this cannot be overstated, especially in a world where marginalized people often feel invisible.

The “Food for Love” paper states, “Food is a fundamental human need that affects both physical and emotional states. Thus, the pursuit and consumption of food has shaped human and animal behavior. People Feel strongly about food preferences and the food culture in which they grew up.

“Eating behavior goes beyond nutrition and reducing hunger; Family, friends, and cultural heritage shape individual food preferences. Offerings of food may be used to show affection toward loved ones, to extend hospitality to strangers, or to practice or express religious beliefs.

Additionally, Rethink Food’s model of repurposing excess food tackles another important issue: food waste. By using food that would otherwise have gone to landfill, the organization is not only feeding hungry people but also contributing to environmental sustainability.

In its 2023 Year-End Impact Report, Rethink Food shared that it saved over 661,800 pounds of food, saved 15,222,000 gallons of water and diverted 1,650,000 pounds of carbon dioxide.

How rethinking food is driving national change

ReThink Food was honored in May 2023 by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Council President Adrienne E. Adams, and Kate McKenzie, Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy, for its tireless work in the city that never sleeps . Rethink Food was honored with a proclamation for its own day.

The non-profit organization also had a presence at the White House in December for The Communities in Action: Building a Better New York event.

Rethink Food’s community involvement is a key part of its success. Restaurants, grocery stores, and corporate sponsors have played an important role in providing the resources needed to maintain and grow meal programs. Community participation is equally important. Volunteers, donors and advocates have been the backbone of ReThink Food’s operations, contributing time, money and voice to the cause.

The organization is continually open to volunteers to work in its commissary kitchen and is eager to connect with more restaurants and brands interested in donating excess food.