By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Nonprofit organization Rethink has partnered with Eleven Madison Park to feed New Yorkers in need during the pandemic. The organization, which uses food excess from restaurants throughout the city for meals for hungry New Yorkers, announced last Thursday that they were transforming into Emergency Food Management and would be turning the Michelin-starred restaurant adjacent to Madison Square Park into a commissary kitchen that will serve healthcare workers and other New Yorkers impacted by the pandemic. The restaurant and organization are expected to produce more than 2,000 meals per day at full capacity.
“Our mission of delivering food to New Yorkers in need has never been more important, and finding a way to continue serving those that have always relied on us, as well as helping hospitals provide meals in this all-hands-on-deck moment, is so important,” said Matt Jozwiak, Executive Director and Founder of Rethink Food NYC. “This innovative program also helps the very restaurants we’re using to prepare the meals and we hope this partnership serves as a model that can be replicated nationwide, which we’re already working to do.”
Eleven Madison Park chef and owner Daniel Humm will be overseeing the kitchen at Eleven Madison Park and former staff members, who were previously laid off when the restaurant closed last month, have been rehired by Rethink Food to make the meals.
Humm has previously been supportive of Rethink’s mission to reduce waste by taking unused food from restaurants and grocery stores to create meals that are delivered to New Yorkers in need and wanted to support healthcare workers during the pandemic.
“The most important thing any of us can do is find ways to support the healthcare workers on the frontlines of this battle and those struggling to survive it,” Humm said. “We’re grateful that this partnership will allow the Eleven Madison Park team to contribute in such a significant way. This is obviously an extraordinarily difficult moment for New York, and this program has given our team the chance to not only help people, but to do what they love: cook.”
The restaurant’s former employees will work in teams of three in the restaurant’s different kitchens so that groups can work simultaneously. Meals will be delivered to locations throughout the city, including hospitals such as New-York Presbyterian and community centers like Collective Fare at Brownsville Community Culinary Center. Workers have been following rigorous safety codes while producing the meals, including wearing masks and gloves.
Rethink has set up Emergency Food Management during COVID-19 to fund and activate local food purveyors, in addition to providing meals in times of crisis. Their Emergency Food Response gives select restaurants financial relief to support staff in exchange for being a distribution center for the organization to serve impacted communities.
In addition to helping the restaurants get meals safely to those who need them, the program also helps restaurants that are faced with closure, helping to bolster their bottom line and endure closures throughout the pandemic.
Research from Rethink shows that about 40% of the food produced in the United State goes to waste, an equivalent of 70 billion tons. The organization argues that there is enough food to feed the 42 million people in the country facing hunger and they are working to make those connections.
The organization rolled out its Emergency Food Management program in New York in response to COVID-19 and has plans to roll out nationally as the need grows. Rethink is also working on making this a federally-funded program so that the country can both feed Americans in need and help businesses during times of crisis.
Eleven Madison Park overlooks Madison Square Park and has been awarded three Michelin stars, in addition to four stars from the New York Times. The establishment is part of Make It Nice, an international restaurant group that also includes counter-service spot Made Nice, Davies and Brook in London and a new restaurant coming soon to Midtown.
American Express is also backing the initiative as part of the company’s commitment to support communities and restaurants impacted by COVID-19.