Oak Brook Apartments in Rancho Cordova, Calif., has collected 800 pounds of food in just one year.
Courtesy Move for Hunger Oak Brook Apartments in Rancho Cordova, Calif., has collected 800 pounds of food in just one year.

Over its first 18 months in the multifamily space, Red Bank, N.J.-based nonprofit Move for Hunger has mobilized a network of property managers—including Greystar, Alliance Residential, Bozzuto, and AvalonBay—to encourage residents moving out of their properties to donate nonperishable food items they might otherwise leave behind or throw away.

When residents of Move for Hunger’s member communities give notice, their property managers provide them with Move for Hunger informational materials, including a recyclable paper collection bag, and encourage them to donate their nonperishable items before moving. Then, one of Move for Hunger’s local transportation partners, including CORT Furniture Rental, will collect each month’s donations and take them to a food bank in the area.

“It’s an additional service that the property manager can provide residents to make the moving process more sustainable,” says Adam Lowy, founder and executive director of Move for Hunger. “Over the past 18 months, we’ve gone from eight properties to over a thousand all across the country. Most of the major leaders in this space are really getting involved, and collectively the network has now delivered over 33,000 pounds of food to their local food banks.”

Together with its existing network of over 1,000 moving companies across all 50 states and Canada, Move for Hunger has donated over 15 million pounds of food through its partners since its founding in 2009. This is enough to feed 12 million people—and the organization aims to feed 3 million more this year.

Lowy, whose family has run Lowy’s Moving Service in Neptune, N.J., for over 100 years, began Move for Hunger after finding that his family’s clients would often throw out or leave behind nonperishable food items when they moved. In summer 2009, he began offering donations to a local food bank as a company service simply by asking clients if they wanted to donate their leftover food.

“In a month, from asking one question, we donated 300 pounds of food,” he says. “And that’s when we realized that people want to do good. They don’t always know how or where, but if you make it really easy, in this case bring a food drive into someone’s living room, they’re going to help a neighbor in need.”

After eight years partnering with moving companies to expand the organization, Lowy and his team realized that they had not been able to reach a majority of the moving population. “Seventy-four percent of people are moving without a moving company, and a lot of these individuals live in apartments, where you see the most moving happening,” he says. “So we started working with apartment communities to see what we might be able to do there.”

Neither Lowy nor anyone on his team had any experience in the multifamily space, but to his surprise the industry was receptive to the idea. “CORT Furniture Rental joined us early on as a national strategic partner, and they signed up all 52 of their districts,” he says. “When we went to Greystar, we talked to their sustainability director who really started pushing it through the channels. Now we’re rolling out agents there.”

Lowy attributes Move for Hunger’s quick success in multifamily to this idea of donation as a service, as well as the vast importance the industry places on corporate social responsibility.

“Sustainability is becoming one of those things that more and more people are caring about,” he says, “whether it be sustainable building practices, waste reduction, or just other amenities that the properties are offering. So we see how Move for Hunger ties in. But I don’t think I expected everyone to be as receptive.”

Move for Hunger also organizes food drives and educational events for current residents of partner communities in order to engage them in giving year-round. “Coming up in July we have what we call our Shark Week Food Drive, where we collect canned tuna fish. Kids like tuna as much as sharks do, so it’s just another creative way to mobilize the industry around something good,” Lowy says.

The organization is still in the process of expanding across the industry, with another 500 properties expected to roll out Move for Hunger programs this year alone. It’s also making moves into commercial real estate, with a pilot program in partnership with JLL, as well as partnerships with corporate housing.

“If we can get the entire industry encouraging people to donate their food when they move, we could really impact the food waste that occurs,” he adds. “Forty percent of the food produced in the United States ends up in a landfill while 40 million Americans go hungry each and every night. And we feel that our industry has a huge opportunity to fill local food banks and stop food from ending up in the landfills.”

Interested multifamily organizations and property managers can visit moveforhunger.com/join to learn more about the organization and become a partner.