How Matt Jozwiak Is Helping NYC Restaurants Rethink Food

How Matt Jozwiak Is Helping NYC Restaurants Rethink Food

In the heart of New York City, Matt Jozwiak, the co-founder of Rethink Food, is reshaping the relationship between food waste and hunger in a powerful way. His nonprofit organization isn’t just addressing the hunger crisis — it’s transforming surplus food into opportunities, nourishing bodies and businesses in the local culinary landscape.

Founded on the principle that food is a right, not a privilege, Rethink Food is pioneering a sustainable model that reroutes excess ingredients from restaurants, grocery stores, and corporate kitchens. Under Jozwiak’s leadership, the nonprofit takes those ingredients and whips them up into flavorful and nourishing meals, and then puts it all into the hands of those in need while supporting the very restaurants that feed the cycle.

For Rethink Food, partnerships are everything. It’s enjoyed a fruitful partnership with Whole Foods Market since 2021. Other collaborators include Brookfield Properties and Chelsea Market in New York. Rethink Food’s reach extends to Miami in 2023 it struck a new restaurant partnership with Miami’s River Oyster Bar. Since 2021 Chef Michael Schwartz and The Genuine Hospitality Group have given back to Rethink Food by raising over 66,500 meals for Miami-Dade’s undernourished through a 2% menu surcharge, totaling 131,000-plus meals in 2021. Additionally, the bar matches diner donations of 0.5% on checks, doubling the contribution to 1% for Rethink Food.

“We work with local restaurants and food businesses– 53 of which are predominantly minority or women-owned local businesses—to prepare meals for delivery to local community-based organizations that then distribute them to individuals and communities in need,” Matt Jozwiak shares.

“Our sustainable commissary kitchen also expertly prepares excess food from a range of partners across the food system into quality meals. We also provide sustainability services to help companies reach their [environmental, social, and corporate governance] goals.”

The nonprofit launched the Rethink Certified Campus at Brookfield Properties’ Manhattan West in 2022, which is a game changer for fueling a more sustainable and equitable food system in the Big Apple.

 

“The Rethink Certified Campus at Manhattan West is a major milestone in our effort to bridge the gap between the 108 billion pounds of food that go uneaten in the U.S. every year and the 38 million Americans who lack reliable access to food,” Jozwiak stated in a press release.

“Leveraging Rethink Food’s model, this unique campus embodies how we can collectively transform excess food into nutritious meals. We’re incredibly proud to partner with Brookfield Properties and its network of like-minded restaurants and market partners at Manhattan West to redefine how together we can not only impact the lives of the community we serve, but also the environment around us.”

The journey of Rethink Food began with Jozwiak’s own experiences in the kitchen. A chef with an impressive resume that includes stints at some of New York’s finest eateries, Jozwiak was confronted daily with the paradox of excess and need. The city’s restaurants, even while producing surplus food, operate within communities where hunger is a persistent issue. This dichotomy sparked in Matt Jozwiak a mission: to bridge the gap between waste and want.

After landing a job in the kitchen of Daniel Humm’s famed Eleven Madison Park restaurant, Jozwiak and Humm formed Rethink Food in 2017.

Rethink Food’s model is simple yet profoundly impactful. The organization collects high-quality food surplus and redistributes it in the form of meals to local organizations. However, Rethink Food’s approach goes beyond mere redistribution. It invests in restaurants to produce these meals, providing financial support that helps local businesses stay afloat, especially critical in the wake of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“His vision for a seamless way to tackle food insecurity and support restaurants through the most difficult year in memory led us to create the Rethink Certified Program together amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Humm said about Jozwiak landing on the prestigious World’s Best 50 list of 50 Next Class of 2021 Trailblazing Activists. “With visionaries like him, the way to change the restaurant model and end hunger seems so much more achievable.”

For NYC restaurants, partnering with Rethink Food has been a lifeline. It offers a financial cushion and allows these establishments to be part of a larger movement toward sustainability and community support. Restaurants are given the resources to prepare meals for their needy neighbors, turning potential food waste into a vital service.

Lex and Jeanette Lugo of Agape Food Rescue in Brooklyn work with 42 housing projects and have teamed up with Rethink Food and small restaurants to help hungry neighbors.

“When you get something that tastes good and you can enjoy, everything else around you feels better, hence the word ‘comfort food,’” Jeanette Lugo stated. “People are trying to figure out how to pay their rent or just get the essentials. We are very pleased to be hooked up with a great group of people like Rethink Food who understand that being able to give somebody a meal with dignity is everything.”

Matt Jozwiak’s vision is making a tangible difference. Rethink Food revealed in its 2023 year-end report that it rescued more than 685,000 pounds of food.

Since 2017, more than $95 million has been allocated to support more than 165 restaurants and food enterprises, resulting in the provision of over 23 million meals to over 237 community-based organizations.

But its impact is measured not just in numbers. By fostering a community of care, Rethink Food has created a ripple effect, encouraging restaurants, volunteers, and the public to reconsider their relationship with food.

The success of Rethink Food under Jozwiak’s guidance offers a hopeful blueprint for cities worldwide. It demonstrates that with creativity, commitment, and collaboration, it’s possible to tackle food insecurity and waste simultaneously, nourishing communities and supporting local economies in the process.

As Rethink Food continues to grow, its foundational belief remains clear: The power of food can bring people together, transform lives, and uplift communities. Through the leadership of visionaries like Matt Jozwiak, the path toward a more sustainable and equitable food system is being paved, one meal at a time, right in the heart of New York City.

Previous

Layton Giordani lands on Experts Only with techno belter ‘Paranoid’

Next

St. Patrick's Day Fashion: A Celebration of Green for Men and Women

Check Also