MARC Member Spotlight – City Harvest

When Feeding Pennsylvania began the development phase of creating the MARC in June of 2016, City Harvest was one of many food banks who saw the value of a regional produce cooperative in the northeast region. From concept to fruition, City Harvest has been an integral part of making the MARC the success that it is today.  

For more than 35 years, City Harvest has helped to feed millions of New Yorkers who struggle to put meals on their tables. In the beginning, their work focused on local food rescue. They recognized the practical purpose that surplus food could serve if directed to New Yorkers who needed it most. Since then, they have rescued over 900 million pounds of fresh, nutritious food and delivered it—free of charge—to more than 400 food pantries, soup kitchens, community partners, and their own Mobile Markets across the five boroughs.

In 2011, City Harvest moved into their first warehouse and that shifted the way that they operate. Through their Supply Chain North America team, they began sourcing more food from outside of New York City, and started sourcing and distributing full 40,000 pound truck quantities of food from all over the country – with the vast majority of it being fresh produce. “The MARC is definitely a really big part of why we bring in so much produce,” said Max Hoffman, Associate Director, Supply Chain North America, Procurement & Logistics.  “Last year in FY20, the MARC was City Harvest’s largest vendor with 7.8 million pounds sourced. This fiscal year, just from July-December, we have already sourced 6.6 million pounds,” Hoffman explained.

Like most food banks, the rise of COVID-19 forced City Harvest to adapt to a low-touch distribution model.  Far before the USDA announced their Farmers to Families Food Boxes, the MARC became a vital partner by offering prepacked boxes, giving City Harvest the ability to send product directly to their Mobile Markets. “The MARC was really out in front of it,” said Courtney Lum, Senior Supply Chain Analyst, Supply Chain North America. “Before the USDA Farmers to Families Food Boxes existed, the MARC started their prepacked box program giving us a ton of flexibility,” Lum continued. 

In addition to flexibility, the MARC also helped City Harvest with transportation needs and expertise in the produce landscape. “James, Nick, and Denise really have a lot of expertise,” Max Hoffman continued.  “We really rely on them, obviously, for the food, but also for guidance in terms of the produce market and trucking market. It’s been a really great relationship. I constantly find myself referring to them for what works, and I think the MARC really is a model that the entire network should adopt, specifically with how we run the Feeding America affiliate co-ops.” 

Most recently, City Harvest began ordering the new MARC Premium Boxes. The Premium Boxes include high grade, retail quality product.  While this product is more expensive, it also has a longer shelf-life and the feedback from partner agencies has been overwhelmingly positive. “We oversee procurement and the logistics associated with it, and often when we’re hearing from agencies, it’s generally not good. For us, no news is good news. But really, the feedback for the MARC Premium boxes have been so positive. People are just so happy about them – the boxes are just amazing and the quality is great,” Hoffman said.

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