How We Got Here: Response to a Problem

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Our organization was born out of the desire to solve a problem. During his culinary career, Matt Jozwiak, had become all too familiar with how much perfectly good restaurant food was going to waste. He had also become aware and concerned about a major issue in food policy: the restaurant industry's surprising lack of understanding about what can and cannot be donated.

Each year, in New York City alone, over one million tons of food goes to waste because of everything from poor storage to a lack of access to donation services. In his case, as an experienced chef in the fine dining industry, he could see a particular issue with the higher end establishments, which buy and dispose of fresh ingredients every day. It didn’t take long for Matt to realize that he was not alone in his frustration. People across the entire food supply system — from farmers to restaurant owners to diners — were fed up with the way things were.

Out of this collective exasperation, we founded Rethink. It was a simple response to two simple, albeit difficult, problems: food excess and insecurity. Our approach has always been to rely on out-of-the-box, solution-oriented thinking. It's instilled in everything we do. And no matter how much we grow, we will continue to work reflexively. To listen to feedback from team members and partner organizations and take action accordingly, so that our model never stops self-correcting.

One of the core challenges we faced early on was dealing with misinformation about food safety and liability within the culinary world. Many restaurants were eager to donate but were hesitant because they were nervous about their foods becoming perishable and causing food-born illnesses. To curb these fears, we put together an extensive list of protocols, including visual, taste, weight and temperature logging of all ingredients to ensure no time-temperature abuse of food. Additionally, all Rethink employees are now required to get their health food handlers licenses and ServSafe certifications, and we have a food safety specialist on retainer who liaises between Rethink and food donors' kitchen to ensure they are able to maximize the amount of food they can donate, as well as improve upon our own sustainability initiatives. 

A year later and while the obstacles we face these days are less about making a name for ourselves and more about maximizing our impact, the fluidity with which we respond to them remains. Whether it’s creating new jobs based on our needs as an organization rather than just hiring someone for a role because said role exists at every other nonprofit, or surveying diners to better tailor our meals towards the varying taste preferences and dietary restrictions of different communities, we are always aiming to improve our operations — and problem-solving.