Non-Profit Catering for the Homeless

BY CRYSTAL WOLFE

Catering for the Homeless is a nonprofit organization that connects churches and other homeless nonprofits in the retrieval and distribution of the quality food that is being thrown out in every neighborhood of New York City every day by catering companies and restaurants.

Catering for the Homeless was founded in the beginning of 2017. The NYC Rescue Mission (now the Bowery Mission) and the Coalition for the Homeless were the first organizations to commit to it. Throughout 2017, food pickups were coordinated in Brooklyn and Queens through local entertainment studios. In 2017, Catering for the Homeless fed about 2,000 people through these endeavors.

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and their catering company, Centerplate Catering, is a major nonprofit that is working with Catering for the Homeless. When I contacted the Jacob Javits Center in December of 2017, the managers of Centerplate Catering told me that my timing was perfect.

They had just finished installing a refrigeration system in their venue that would permit them to give out the food that they’d previously been throwing away to the homeless in Manhattan, while still complying with New York State food regulation and distribution laws.

In January of 2018, thanks to Centerplate Catering, we essentially exceeded an entire year’s worth of efforts in the first month of 2018. The Jacob Javits Center has over 200 events each year. These events usually have a certain amount of quality, untouched food left over from these catered events that in the past have been thrown away.

Each event at a major catering venue like the Javits Center can provide on average of approximately 200 to 1,200 meals for the homeless in sandwiches, salads, wraps, yogurt, fruit, etc.

Two churches and two major homeless non-profits are making these food pickups from the Javits Center to immediately distribute to the homeless.

How does my nonprofit Catering for the Homeless differ from other nonprofits that feed the homeless? Feeding America is a national nonprofit that is a network of 200 food banks, focusing predominately on food pantries and soup kitchens. They do not retrieve prepared food.

City Harvest no longer works directly with the homeless. Their mission has changed. The food waste they pick up is mainly from local farms and major grocery, the bring it to places like farmer’s markets around the boroughs of New York City. They do not pick up food for churches or other homeless organizations as they once did.

In the past, City Harvest picked up food donations just a few times a year from the Jacob Javits Center, but prefers not to because their focus has shifted. They are an organization that rescues about 59 million pounds of fresh produce a year.

Catering for the Homeless specifically focuses on ready-made food that can be distributed for immediate consumption. The Coalition for the Homeless and the Bowery Mission feed the homeless, but these distributions are only in Manhattan. Catering for the Homeless is focused on becoming a canopy for a new method of rescuing food, with a new network of feeding people prepared food going to waste.

There are billions of pounds of prepared food being thrown away each year, while one in seven people in America experience hunger on a daily basis.

It is reasonable to estimate through this one caterer and this one venue —Centerplate Catering and the Jacob Javits Center — that at least 100,000 additional meals will be donated to the homeless in Manhattan in 2018 through local churches and nonprofits.

There are thousands more caterers throwing out perfectly good food throughout New York City. As more caterers, nonprofits, and churches get on board, the capacity for Catering for the Homeless to feed the homeless, and less fortunate individuals, families, and children is unlimited.

The only limit is for people to do that little extra work to get this food to the people who really need it.

For more information to donate, volunteer, or to get on board go to cateringforthehomeless.com, email cateringforthehomeless@gmail.com, or like Catering for the Homeless on Facebook and Twitter.

The Good Samaritan Law protects caterers, churches, and homeless nonprofits in the food distribution of donated items. Caterers can receive a tax write-off for food donations. There is no good reason for anyone in one of the wealthiest, greatest countries in the world to go hungry, especially when there is enough food going to waste that nobody needs to.

Crystal Wolfe is founder of Catering for the Homeless. Her new book is call Our Invisible Neighbors.

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