Monday, June 14, 2021

Toyota Cares: 7 Ways to Join the fight against hunger in NYC with City Harvest

Here we are, a year and three months after the world shut down due to a global pandemic, and although with vaccines readily available and signs of normalcy starting to reappear, there are families still feeling the negative impacts of the coronavirus. More than 1.5 million New Yorkers are struggling to feed themselves and their families – up 38% from pre-COVID figures. 

Thankfully amazing local organizations like City Harvest continue to work tirelessly to help resilient New Yorkers facing hunger. Our family had the opportunity to volunteer in the Washington Heights community on behalf of Toyota and it was an incredible and humbling experience. Read on to learn more about how you can also join the fight against hunger.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post in partnership with Toyota. All opinions expressed are 100% honest.

You can never truly understand how dire situations really are until you've lived through them yourself. Although we managed thankfully to keep food on the table to feed our two children, both Mike and I found ourselves suddenly unemployed/ under-employed by the end of March 2020.

 With my husband no longer working as a chef at the Standard hotel and producing family-friendly events for brands like Motherly were all on hold indefinitely for me, we of course wondered how we'd make ends meet. A year later and under much better circumstances we both found it very important to have our teenage son CJ join us so that he could learn the importance of giving back to the community and those in need.

Toyota invited us to join the fight against hunger by setting us up to volunteer at one of City Harvest's mobile markets. We loaded into the new 2021Toyota Highlander with our son, and my sister and made our way uptown on what turned out to be a gorgeous Saturday morning. 

The Washington Heights families were lined up with their carts and wheeled totes as early as 7 am, so as soon as we arrived we jumped right in to move tables and stack boxes before our orientation with Tony the site supervisor. There was a substantial amount of produce packed into each box, and bags of canned goods handed out. 

City Harvest's mobile markets provide thousands of New Yorkers with fresh fruits and vegetables free of charge. The need for support is greater than ever! Sadly, 1 in 4 NYC children are experiencing food insecurity – a devastating increase of 49% since the pandemic began.  

If you've never had the chance to volunteer before, let me tell you we had a wonderful experience, not only did we have a lot of fun, it brought us great joy to be able to donate our time by servicing a NYC neighborhood on behalf of Toyota. The community members were so friendly and appreciative, and we had the chance to meet some awesome veteran volunteers and newbies. 

Bonus, our teen had a great time! We were really proud of him for jumping in and lending a hand to move tables and boxes and place food boxes in carts for the elderly. 

Incredibly, we handed out boxes of produce (18,320 lbs) and bags of canned goods to nearly 400 families in just two hours!! Get a quick look at our experience over on our Instagram reel, and make sure you're following us to see what social good we participate in next!

Here are 7 ways you can help City Harvest fight hunger in NYC:

  1. Give Now: Every $1 donated helps City Harvest rescue and deliver fresh, healthy food for three New Yorkers each day. You can become a monthly donor, donate on behalf of somebody else, give directly from your IRA, support City Harvest with your business, double your impact by having your donation matched, give by mail, phone or stock! Get more details here.

  2. Fundraise: Through Share Lunch Fight Hunger, an online fundraising competition, hundreds of businesses and individuals in New York City came together to help make sure no child in our city goes hungry during this difficult time. Happily, they have raised enough to help feed more than 52,000 children for the entire summer! Learn more here.

  3. Donate Food: You can run a food drive to help keep the soup kitchens and food pantries stocked all year. If your business is interested in donating food, that can be coordinated easily, and a pick-up scheduled. Discover how to get started here

  4. Volunteer: I love that you can sign into a volunteer portal to find out about any upcoming opportunities to serve the community with City Harvest. It was really seamless to use and you could pick a day that works with your availability. It will show how many openings are still available on their calendar, which will quickly narrow down dates for you. Get more details on how you can volunteer here.

They deliver fresh produce free of charge at the local markets, 18 times a month across all five boroughs. As a volunteer, you will distribute thousands of pounds of fruits and vegetables to hundreds of families. 

The Time commitment is from 8:15am–12:00pm (shift time subject to change); the Mobile Markets take place twice a month at each of their nine locations. The Minimum age requirement is 14 years old, with a chaperone. We were really happy that Chris was old enough to participate, the work wasn't difficult and he could see the different families that would appreciate receiving a box.

5. Advocate: Having equal access to fresh and healthy food is an essential right,that not everyone has. City Harvest works with partners in communities across the city to ensure that residents stay informed about anti-hunger policies and programs, and they advocate for equity and inclusion in the decision making process that shapes the local food system. In addition, they also engage elected officials at the city, state and federal levels to help shape policies that address hunger and food insecurity. Learn more about how to become an advocate here

6. Events: From enjoying one-of-a-kind dining experiences at top NYC restaurants, to family friendly winter carnivals, foodathons and golf tournaments - there are numerous hosted events to help raise much needed funds. Check them out here

7.  Shop for City Harvest: By visiting specific retailers a portion of the money you spend will go towards fighting hunger. For every dollar donated, you can help feed three people a day. Take a look at the amazing programs here. 

Whether you live here in NYC or out of state you can find a way to join the fight against hunger to help the 1.5 million families in need. We hope that you find a moment to support City Harvest in any way that you can! 

Have you and your family ever volunteered at a Food Bank or Food Drive? Save and Pin this post for later when you're looking for ideas on how to give back to a community in need!


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