Spotlight: City Harvest’s $30 Million Campaign

‘Spotlight’ features nonprofits that are pursuing active growth capital campaigns that will enable them to scale their impact.

Campaign aims to respond to the record demand for emergency food in New York City.

In a city known for its vast wealth and dining options, New York City is also home to many people struggling to put meals on the table for their families.  More than 20 percent of New Yorkers are living in poverty, including nearly one in three children under the age of 18.  Food pantries and soup kitchens are stretched thin and the issue of hunger is compounded by limited access to healthy food in many low-income communities, resulting in high levels of diet-related diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Because the cost of living in New York City is so high, many working residents like Lenora still have difficulty paying their bills.  Lenora lives in the Melrose section of the South Bronx, is the mother of five and a former nurse’s aide.  About a year ago, Lenora was laid off from her job, and though her husband works, the family struggles to keep up with the expenses of daily life.  “There were times when my kids would go to bed at night telling me that they were hungry,” she said. “If City Harvest wasn’t here, I’d be crying myself to sleep at night, wondering when my kids would eat.”

For more than 30 years City Harvest has been the link between the food industry and hungry men, women and children across the five boroughs of New York City.  Fallout from the recession continues to push record numbers of New Yorkers like Lenora and her family into emergency food programs that rely on City Harvest.  In order to make sure these programs can keep their doors open, City Harvest rescues good, nutritious food that would otherwise go to waste and delivers it to a network of several hundred community food programs.  A fleet of 18 trucks and three bikes are on the road daily, rescuing and delivering food to New Yorkers in need.

In July 2011, City Harvest embarked on a strategic plan that will enable the organization to more than double the amount of food they move annually by 2016 – from 30 million pounds to 60 million pounds – to help meet the demand for emergency food across New York City.  To fund this vision, the organization launched the 30-30-30 Campaign, named for the 30 years City Harvest has existed, the 30 million additional pounds of food they’ll deliver to hungry New Yorkers, and the incremental $30 million dollars that they need to reach their goal.

City Harvest launched the Campaign in April 2012 at its annual gala, and has made significant progress to date.  As of May 2013, the organization has raised $16 million dollars, more than 50 percent of the total campaign goal.  Year one of the plan called for an investment in the organization’s capacity to open a 45,400 square foot Food Rescue Facility in Long Island City.  With the Facility now in place, City Harvest is able to move almost 50 percent more food than it did two years ago (with close to two-thirds of it fresh produce), and is on track to deliver more than 44 million pounds of food in 2013.

Building upon its core competency in food rescue, City Harvest is also expanding its Healthy Neighborhoods initiative.  For many people that City Harvest serves, healthy food is unavailable and unaffordable. In turn, diseases related to poor nutrition – including diabetes and obesity – tend to be concentrated where demand for emergency food is greatest.  The organization began Mobile Market free distributions of fresh fruits and vegetables in 2005 and developed Healthy Neighborhoods programs to improve access to nutritious foods in low-income communities and provide nutrition education to help inspire affordable, healthy meal choices.  With the help of funds from the 30-30-30 Campaign, the Healthy Neighborhoods initiative recently expanded to all five boroughs, delivering more than 10 million pounds of fresh produce to these areas.

For people like Lenora, the initiative doesn’t just help New Yorkers combat hunger by providing increased access to food, it helps them fill their plates with healthy food.  “The produce that City Harvest gives out is something that my family can all look forward to – we cook together and learn about healthy eating together,” Lenora said.

City Harvest’s strategic plan and 30-30-30 Campaign call for the organization to raise an additional $30 million to reach its target of 60 million pounds of food by 2016, and continue helping New Yorkers like Lenora access a very basic but essential need.


The Ask:  $30 million in additional giving by 2016 to enable City Harvest to rescue and deliver 60 million pounds of food and expand its Healthy Neighborhoods program.

Amount Raised-to-Date:$16 million

Funder Commitments:  Robin Hood, The Starr Foundation, The Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, and two City Harvest Board members have made $1 million+ commitments towards the Campaign.  With a focus on securing 100% board participation in the Campaign’s second year, City Harvest will begin to expand efforts to secure gifts from a broader pool of individual and institutional funders in the Campaign’s remaining years.

Growth Goals and Application of Funds:

  1. Increase annual food deliveries by 30 million pounds, to some 60 million pounds each year, using a new Food Rescue Facility in Queens.
  2. Expand Healthy Neighborhoods initiative to increase access to nutritious food and encourage healthy eating for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.
  3. Raise an additional $30 million over the course of the five-year campaign to support City Harvest’s planned growth.
  4. Over five years, the campaign will enable City Harvest to rescue and deliver more than 200 million pounds of food and allow Healthy Neighborhoods to touch communities in all five boroughs of the city.

From the CEO:  “With continued high demand for emergency food in New York City, and diseases related to poor nutrition on the rise, City Harvest is committed to ensuring that residents have access to good, healthy food – now and for as long as anyone in our city is hungry.” – Jilly Stephens

To learn more about City Harvest, please visit their S&I 100 profile.