Exclusive: Jacob Javits Center makes first produce donation from rooftop farm

The Jacob Javits Center made its first produce donation from its rooftop farm on Thursday, giving away 275 pounds of fresh food to those in need for the holiday season.

In September, the entertainment and convention mecca unveiled its 1.2 million-square-foot expansion and an incredible and rather unique use of space. Adorning its rooftop amidst Manhattan’s concrete-laden Westside, sits rows of fresh vegetation growing above the rafters. This was designed to allow Javits to supply the events held within its walls with their own, fresh produce.

However, with the winter coming the center’s JavitsCares program gifted 275 pounds of fresh produce to Rethink Food, a local non-profit organization that utilizes excess food to provide quality nutritious and culturally-celebrated meals to thousands of New Yorkers impacted by food insecurity each week.

Fresh produce is loaded into a truck. Photo by Dean Moses
It will be transformed into meals for the hungry. Photo by Dean Moses

Staff from both Rethink Food and JavitsCares took bags of broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, and more plucked directly from the sky-high garden, and into the back of a truck on Dec. 16. Loaded with the bounty, the truck will transport the goods to ReThink Food who will then transform the veggies into hearty meals for those in need.

“Being a better neighbor is one of our core values, and that’s why we’re happy to donate this homegrown produce to such a worthy cause,” said Jacqueline Tran, the Javits Center’s Energy and Sustainability Manager. “From hosting the largest events in New York City to maintaining New York’s largest green roof, our employees are focused on improving the quality of life of New Yorkers, and we’re proud to work with ReThink Food to provide families with nutritious meals  –  especially at this time of the year.”

The food will be made by Rethink Food. Photo by Dean Moses

Managed by Brooklyn Grange, the rooftop farm is projected to supply 40,000 pounds of produce each year.  The convention site is hoped to become a sustainable roof-to-table experience.

In the fall, the basil produced in the rooftop farm was utilized during New York Comic Con to create pesto sauce for the meals served that week.

“This was our first season, and we started planting relatively late. Next year, we will start early in February and April,” said Julia Widmann, sustainability specialist at Javits Center.

According to Matt Jozwiak, founder and CEO of Rethink Food, their organization makes about 55,000 meals per week, and with this donation they are hoping to create enough meals for individuals facing food insecurity in Brooklyn and the South Bronx.

“Depending on how much we are able to yield, we’re going to make lots and lots of delicious holiday meals for folks,” said Jozwiak, adding, “I’m a big believer that food is more than just a meal. And it really does something for the soul. When you put some love into it, create great, beautiful, wonderful meals for folks. They can feel it and it just makes everybody’s day a little brighter.”

Lush greens can be found atop the Jacob Javits Center. Photo by Dean Moses