City Harvest feeds boro’s hungry

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rebecca Henely

The work on nonprofit City Harvest’s new 45,400-square-foot facility in Long Island City is not yet complete, but the organization is already sending out an average of 83,000 pounds of food a week to places that help the five boroughs’ hungry.

“This facility will allow us to get to the next level,” said David Levy, City Harvest’s vice president of distribution, transportation and logistics.

City Harvest is a food rescue which transports edible but not salable food to those in need and has operated in the city since 1982. Through its 2,000 donors, the organization delivers food to about 600 emergency food programs throughout the city.

“We’re just trying to do our share to end hunger in all five boroughs of New York City,” Levy said.

Its corporate offices are based in Manhattan, but in the past City Harvest handled its food rescue operations out of a 3,000-square-foot facility in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, occasionally rented a freezer and kept its delivery trucks at locations throughout the five boroughs.

With City Harvest’s new facility, at 55-01 2nd St. in Hunters Point, all that has changed. The facility’s zero-degree freezer alone is 1,000 square feet bigger than its old facility. The Long Island City location also includes a 38-degree cooler that can hold the produce that accounts for 60 percent of City Harvest’s output, space for non-perishable food and a 7,000-square-foot area that will be a food nutrition education center. The 20,000-square-foot parking lot can store all of City Harvest’s 17 trucks and other vehicles.

“This seemed to have everything for our needs,” Levy said of the location.

The nonprofit collects food from restaurants, supermarkets, food manufacturers, company cafeterias, hospitals, greenmarkets and farms. The donated items are then distributed to community food programs around the city.

City Harvest signed the lease on the property April 29 and opened for business July 1. The organization delivers 30 million pounds of food a year and has a strategic plan to increase its output to the point where it can supply 60 million pounds of food a year.

With the holiday, or “harvest” season, City Harvest delivers more food than at any other time during the year, and 40 percent of the funds it collects are used during this time.

“It’s our busiest season,” Levy said.

From late November to Jan. 15, City Harvest’s goal is to deliver 9 million pounds of food, and the organization is on track to surpass that goal, Levy said.

The new facility’s resources have arrived at a time when people are more food insecure than ever. Levy said that in the four years since the recession began, the need for food has increased by 25 percent over the last four years. Among children, demand has increased by 35 percent and risen by 25 percent among seniors.

“So it’s a little alarming for us,” Levy said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

More from Around New York