City Harvest is New York City’s largest food rescue organization and strives to meet the rising demand for emergency food while putting in place long-term initiatives to address the health and nutrition needs of low-income communities in New York City. DLA Piper is proud to partner with the organization in their work feeding the nearly 1.2 million New Yorkers who are food insecure. In the fifth in a series of Q&As spotlighting food banks across the country, we talk with City Harvest’s CEO Jilly Stephens about how the pandemic has affected daily operations.
“So far, 72 community food programs we regularly deliver food to have been forced to shut down, meaning there are fewer places for New Yorkers to access food. To help fill that gap, we have partnered to open 19 weekly or biweekly Emergency Food Distribution Sites in high-need neighborhoods.”
Q: Tell us about your organization and the community you serve.
Jilly Stephens: City Harvest is New York City’s largest food rescue organization and private response to hunger, helping to feed the nearly 1.2 million New Yorkers who are struggling to put meals on their tables. We will rescue 81 million pounds of food that would otherwise go to waste this year and deliver it, free of charge, to hundreds of food pantries, soup kitchens, and other community partners across the five boroughs. Our programs empower individuals through nutrition education, increase our partners’ capacity, and strengthen the local food system, helping New Yorkers who are experiencing food insecurity to access, afford, and consume nutritious food.
How has the pandemic changed your daily operations?
Jilly: Designated an essential service by New York State, City Harvest has mobilized to feed all New Yorkers in need during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We continue to adjust our operations in accordance with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and to meet the escalating need. Our fleet of 22 trucks remain on the road, rescuing and delivering food for community food programs across the city. Our nine Mobile Markets are maintaining their schedules and continuing to distribute free, fresh produce and nutritious shelf-stable food to families across the five boroughs. We have adjusted each market in accordance with social distancing recommendations and enhanced our hygiene procedures. So far, 72 community food programs we regularly deliver food to have been forced to shut down, meaning there are fewer places for New Yorkers to access food. To help fill that gap, we have partnered to open 19 weekly or biweekly Emergency Food Distribution Sites in high-need neighborhoods. For the community food programs that remain open, we are running regular repacks at our Food Rescue Facility in Long Island City, Queens, to supply food that can be easily distributed with social distancing practices in place.
What is the greatest need right now, and how should people reach out if they want to help?
City Harvest has always stepped up to feed New Yorkers in times of crisis—including following 9/11, the Great Recession in 2007–2008, Superstorm Sandy, and the partial federal government shutdown last year. We have always been neighbors helping neighbors, and now more than ever we must come together to help one another. The best way to support City Harvest’s work is by donating funds, so we can swiftly respond to the increasing and unprecedented need. Right now, BlackRock is matching all donations dollar-for-dollar up to $750,000, through June 30—so every donation has twice the impact. To donate and receive updates about our work, visit cityharvest.org and follow us on social media: @cityharvestnyc on Facebook and Instagram, @cityharvest on Twitter.