DonateNYC Has A New Food Donation Portal: Matching Those Who Have and Those Who Need

A mini food pantry by a Brooklyn Temple. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

BAY RIDGE/ DYKER HEIGHTS – Whether your business has three bagels left at the end of the day, or your grocery store has an extra box of radishes, or your restaurant has leftovers from a catering order, you now can easily pass that food on to those in need – food pantries, or religious and other community organizations that feed the hungry through the DonateNYC Food Portal. And if you are one of those organizations feeding folks in need – read on for how you can work with local businesses to pick up what they need to get rid of.

DonateNYC Food Portal was launched by the NYC Department of Sanitation (DSNY) about 6 months ago as the city works towards its goal of sending zero waste to landfills by 2030. The portal was mandated by the local law 176, introduced by Councilmember Espinal back in 2017 to help with both – food waste and food insecurity in the city. There is too much of both, and the portal provides a simple and quick way to match those who have food to give, with those who need it.

Figuring out how to help reduce commercial food waste was a bit of a challenge for the DSNY, since the department does not actually pick up the waste generated by businesses. Commercial waste collections are done by private carting and as any business owner knows, you pay by weight to get it picked up. But how much of that waste is food?

Prepared food counters at Net Cost Market in Southern Brooklyn. Liena Zagare/Bklyner

“It is hard to tell. Nationally, we know that about 40% of food that is grown will be wasted”, said Ezster Csicsai, Senior Manager for Reuse and Donations at DSNY, explaining that the department spent 6 months researching, and a year building out the portal that matches donors and recipients based both on kind of food desired and distance, with the goal to also keep food local.

They found while researching that if only 25% of the perfectly safe and edible food discarded by businesses in NYC was donated, it would help reduce 53% of identified food insecurity in the city. This would be in addition to the work done by existing large food donation groups like City Harvest and Food Bank for New York City, but for them, scheduling smaller pickups is not always practical. The portal allows to redistribute any amount of food as locally as possible.

So far, the over 300 users that have signed up have helped divert 4.5 tons of food from the landfill. There is absolutely no reason not to join them – no new food safety guidelines to learn for those in the food business, and the process is simple and mobile-friendly.

The inside of the pantry/soup kitchen of Masbia where NG is making food packages. (Photo: Zainab Iqbal)

DonateNYC has helpful step by step videos available and will be hosting an event in Bay Ridge on September 23 (4-6pm) to both – explain how it works, and allow neighborhood businesses and organizations to meet each other – the hope is that once people see both the need and opportunity to collaborate, these hyper-local relationships will grow stronger and more permanent.

A few details about the program – more online, and do register for the event so they can have a rough head count:

  • There is no cost to register
  • There is no minimum to donate – it can literally be a few pastries or sandwiches that did not sell and would be otherwise discarded by a coffeeshop.
  • Donors can deliver or recipients can pick up, whichever is easiest.
  • Donors of food are protected by the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 which limits liability.
  • Recipients can also be donors – so if your nonprofit received a donation of food larger than you can distribute, you can quickly and easily share it with others.
  • For businesses – there are also the tax receipts from successful donations to non-profits, government agencies, or schools, and cost savings from not paying private carting for disposal, on top of that amazing feeling that comes from just doing something good.

Free Event: Mon, September 23, 2019, 4:00 PM – 6:00 PM EDT
Location: DSNY Community Space, 8511 5th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11209
Please register before the event.

The food portal is designed for organizations and businesses only. Individual residents wishing to donate their own excess food may search donateNYC’s online map to find locations throughout the city. For more information please email donate@dsny.nyc.gov.

This post was created in partnership with DSNY to promote recycling and donations.

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