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Volunteers Pack 231,000 Pounds of Food to Feed the Hungry

 City Harvest's "Repackathon" readies the organization's food donations before the busy holiday season.
City Harvest Repackathon
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LONG ISLAND CITY — Anti-hunger organization City Harvest got a jump on the holiday season Friday when volunteers sorted more than 231,000 pounds of food for the group's second annual "Repackathon."

Hundreds of helpers, including Chelsea Clinton and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, turned out to City Harvest's food rescue warehouse in Long Island City, where they worked in shifts for 24 hours to pack up bags and boxes of canned goods and produce, which will be sent to more than 500 food pantries and soup kitchens across the city.

Held the week before Thanksgiving, the event looks to engage volunteers ahead of the busy holidays. City Harvest will collect and distribute approximately 50 million pounds of food this year, according to the organization, with 12.5 million pounds doled out between October and January.

"This is an opportunity for City Harvest to kind of harness that desire and help us move an incredible amount of food," said Jennifer Szapiro, associate director of institutional giving.

The nonprofit works with farmers, restaurants, supermarkets and community food drives to collect "rescued" food that would otherwise go to waste, Szapiro said.

Most of the donations are brought to the Queens warehouse facility in bulk, where they're sorted by volunteers into smaller, easier-to-distribute packages.

By 5 p.m. on Friday, volunteers had packed a total of 231,336 pounds of food, surpassing last year's 215,000 pounds.

Szapiro says City Harvest's partnering food pantries and soup kitchens have seen a more than 40 percent increase in the number of New Yorkers visiting them since 2008, and need has been greater since food stamp benefits were slashed last year.

"The demand for emergency food is very high," she said.