Increasing food prices are affecting an ecosystem of restaurants, community organizations, and our neighbors.
Higher prices are heavily affecting everyone - including an ecosystem of communities, restaurants, food establishments, and nonprofit organizations that provide free meals to our neighbors. In New York City alone, food insecurity outpaced the rest of the country, and the use of food pantries more than doubled between 2021 and 2022 . This year we are seeing a 10% overall increase in the price of food, including a 78% spike in the price of eggs, and across-the-board increases in the price of fuel, fertilizer, packaging, and labor.
More and more, we are seeing a deeply concerning ripple effect across our network of restaurant and nonprofit organization partners, both in their bottom line and the communities they serve.
Despite these challenges, many local businesses are persevering and providing good meals to those who need them most. Here are a few ways that our industry partners are getting involved:
- Happening now: meals for asylum seekers. Restaurants are providing ready-to-eat meals for asylum seekers arriving in New York City, primarily from Texas and Arizona. Kabooz's Bar and Grill and Venezuelan restaurant Cachapas y Mas are preparing hundreds of meals, getting them to people with transportation partners Raeri and Rap4Bronx, and in collaboration with nonprofits Team TLC NYC and Grannies Respond. We believe everyone should have access to dignified, nutritious food, and we are committed to providing support to asylum seekers as buses continue arriving in the city.
- The Yemeni American Merchants Association (YAMA) is in the middle of a ten-week pilot to provide free meals through several bodegas located in Harlem and the Bronx.
- RTS and Brookfield Properties have launched sustainability partnerships that will enable us to recover more food from across the city, and convert it into healthy and delicious meals.
- In addition to preparing 8,500 meals a week for nearly a dozen New York-based community centers, Rethink Food’s commissary kitchen continues to convert thousands of pounds of donated and excess fruits and vegetables from Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and corporate kitchens into jams, purees, sauces, mini meal kits, and soups - staples that community organizations can order online for free as they face record-high food prices and rising demand for meals.
- This year, Rethink Food and its network of restaurant partners have served close to one million meals. Rethink Food has invested over $4,600,000 in small businesses in neighborhoods of greatest need, including communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity.
Local restaurants are often providing a crucial lifeline to nonprofits that serve as hubs for social services - and inflation is making a tough situation worse for those nonprofits, too. According to a recent survey we conducted in the spring, we know that many of our nonprofit partners (including faith-based organizations, shelters, community centers, schools, and libraries) are facing a shortage of food and donations, and are struggling to feed their constituents. Our priority is to ensure that our partners are able to weather the compounding effects of inflation, supply chain issues, strains on the food banking system, and the continued rise in food hardship.
In June, Rethink Food was invited by NYC Mayor Eric Adams, Congressman Jim McGovern, and other food equity stakeholders to discuss our recommendations for the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health which is due to take place in September . Our hope is that we can continue to provide replicable, cost-effective and innovative solutions to support small businesses and improve food access and affordability.
Many have asked us what these economic conditions mean for our network of restaurants, community-based organizations, and individuals and families. Here are our thoughts:
- Small businesses and low-income communities are indisputably the hardest hit by inflation and higher food prices - and they need our help in greater numbers than ever before. Many of your favorite restaurants, without you knowing, are providing meals at no cost to nearby community organizations.
- Utilizing excess food - perfectly good food that would otherwise end up in landfills - will be more important than ever so we can mitigate rising food prices while reaping the environmental benefits (using 1 pound of excess food saves 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide and 23 gallons of fresh water).
- Industrywide participation is essential to creating a more sustainable and equitable food system - and we will continue to provide updates, educational content, and on-the-ground volunteer opportunities so people and businesses can make impactful decisions such as supporting independent restaurants and channeling excess food to communities in need.
Rethink Food is a nonprofit organization with the mission of creating a more sustainable and equitable food system.