While slightly cooler temperatures come as a welcome change for city dwellers braving it out in the oppressive August heat, experienced New Yorkers know that there are at least a couple more heat waves in store before summer’s end. And in the business of food safety, which is a topic always at the top of Rethink’s mind, this means extra attention to a critical issue: the proper handling and storage of donated foods.
Rethink works with some of the finest restaurants in the city, and these restaurants naturally follow all city health code laws and rely on staff specially trained in safe food preparation. But until Rethink’s trucks rolled in, food safety for the many ingredients the kitchen didn’t use didn’t really exist; they were just tossed to keep the next day’s menu fresh -- leaving it up to the Rethink team to not only safely store and handle but also process the donated food.
On the transportation side of things, Rethink was faced with another unique challenge. While other food rescue organizations typically only accept raw or uncooked foods, Rethink was the first to start accepting foods categorized by the NYC Department of Health as Potentially Hazardous Foods (PHFs) -- aka foods like raw meat, dairy, and cooked pasta that could potentially support the rapid growth of microorganisms. This means that having refrigerated trucks to transport food from point a (the restaurant) to point b (the Rethink kitchen) isn’t merely preferable but absolutely necessary for ensuring that all PHFs are kept at or below the critical limit of 41°F.
Additionally, because these foods are going from point a (the restaurant) to point b (the Rethink kitchen) so that they can be cooked into meals by a team of chefs before being delivered to point c (the community service organization), Rethink’s kitchen staff is held to the same city health code laws as its food donor partners. That’s a whole other league of care typical food rescue organizations that simply transport food from point a (the restaurant) to point b (the community service organization) can skip but Rethink’s in-house preparers can’t.
Because food and kitchen safety is at the core of what we do, best practices at Rethink means requiring Rethink kitchen and driving staff to become food safety certified, even though we are not legally required to do so. Moreover, when it comes down to the most important part of the Rethink process -- delivering meals to those in need -- we provide a guideline for our partners on how to safely serve Rethink meals:
If it sounds pretty exhausting and detailed, the truth is it is. And it has to be, no matter what time of year.