Mar 1, 2009 12:00 PM, By David A Kolman
The World's first and New York City's only food rescue program, City Harvest, this year expects to rescue some 23 million pounds of excess food from all segments of the food industry. It transports the food, free of charge, to more than 600 of the 1,000 community food programs throughout the five boroughs that make up the most populous city in the United States.
A non-profit organization, City Harvest delivers an average of more 60,000 pounds of food daily. It averages approximately 850 stops per week to soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, AIDS care providers, senior centers, and children's day care centers that serve hungry people throughout the nearly 305 square miles that comprise the boroughs of Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island.
Since its founding in 1982, “City Harvest's mission is to feed hungry men, women, and children in communities throughout New York City,” says Jennifer McLean, vice president of operations. “We do this through food rescue and distribution by being the in-between between the food industry and the agencies that are the front lines feeding the more than one million people in our city who don't always know where their next meal will come from. We pick up excess food from places such as restaurants, hotels, corporate cafeterias, grocers, wholesalers, markets, and farmers, and deliver it to places that serve those in need.”
“Basically, we're a compact logistics operation,” James Dunne, distribution manager, says. “We try operating as efficiently as possible, and use a variety of vehicles and processes to achieve this.”
City Harvest's fleet is composed of 17 refrigerated straight trucks. There are seven Freightliner FL50s with 16-foot bodies, one GMC W4500 cabover with a 14-foot body, a Ford F550 with a 14-foot Kidron body with a hybrid refrigeration system, and eight International 4300 DuraStars. Two of these are CDL models with 24-foot bodies, and six are hybrids - four with 18-foot bodies and two with 16-foot bodies.
The fleet includes three three-wheel delivery bikes and volunteers who deliver food on foot.
Recently, the organization upgraded one of its light trucks, adding a hybrid refrigeration system, and then replaced six of the diesel-powered medium-duty trucks with hybrids.
“From the beginning, City Harvest's driving philosophy has been ‘waste not,’ and our mantra has been ‘use resources wisely,’ ” McLean notes. “We're going with hybrid systems to take our fleet operation to the next level of efficiency.”
The fleet's first hybrid was the addition of a Low Emission Electric Power (LEEP) Freeze system in a Kidron Ultra Temp refrigerated distribution body. It replaced the traditional refrigerated body on City Harvest's Ford F550 truck.
An innovative energy-efficient and environmentally-conscious hybrid cargo protection system, it combines the benefits of both cold plate and mechanical refrigeration.
Ultra Temp delivers the low operating costs, high reliability, and long-life expectations associated with cold plates, plus offers unlimited route capability, automatic defrost, and lower weight advantages of a mechanical refrigeration system, says Jay Sandler, vice president-sales, for Azure Dynamics. The company, specializing in proprietary electric and hybrid electric drive technology for commercial vehicles, manufactures the LEEP Freeze system and helped develop the Ultra Temp system in conjunction with Kidron.
The LEEP Freeze system uses the vehicle's powertrain to generate clean power. It requires little power, about the equivalent of running a cab air conditioner.
The clean power also is stored in the refrigeration system. When the engine is shut down, the stored energy in the cold plates continues to maintain cargo area temperature.
Overnight, the Ultra Temp system can be plugged into a power source, eliminating cost, fuel, noise, and emissions from diesel engines and generators.
“The Ultra Temp is proven to eliminate 90% of the fuel consumption and emissions of a conventional mechanical system,” Sandler says. “Additional savings are available when an UltraTemp is used with a hybrid powertain.”
The UltraTemp system has a hot gas defrost system that draws warm air across a fin/tube coil, over the cold plates, and automatically expels cold air (defrost condensate) out the top. This design minimizes ice buildup and time loss as compared to the manual defrosting process associated with cold plates.
The elimination of ice buildup and the system's over-the-road refrigeration ability enables the use of smaller cold plates, which helps to lower the vehicle's overall weight.
Fans and coil refrigerant flow are controlled by adjustable thermostat mounted at the body's upper rear corner (hottest spot). Fans turn off automatically when the door opens to prevent body air discharge.
City Harvest has the industry's first Ultra Temp unit.
“One of our supporters liked the idea of our fleet going green,” explains McLean, “and provided the funding to retrofit the truck with the Ultra Temp.” With its custom-built technology, this first mild-hybrid truck would help to demonstrate that a green refrigerated truck fleet was a feasible option for City Harvest.”
Following this project, a City Harvest board member created a dedicated fund and a challenge grant to help the organization transform the entire fleet to run on hybrid power.
Turning to its transportation partner, Penske Truck Leasing, the organization is in the process of converting the fleet to hybrids, starting with its medium-duty trucks. It has six International DuraStar trucks with MaxxForce diesel engines, Eaton's parallel electric hybrid drive system with an Eaton Fuller UltraShift automated transmission.
The Eaton hybrid system maintains the conventional drivetrain architecture, and adds the ability to augment engine torque with electrical motor torque by incorporating an electric motor/generator that is integrated between the output of the automated clutch and input of the transmission.
The system recovers energy normally lost during braking and stores this energy in the hybrid system batteries. During the next vehicle launch cycle, this stored electric energy is pulled from the batteries and supplied to the hybrid motor, which converts the electric energy to torque and horsepower.
When electric motor torque is blended with engine torque, the stored energy is used to improve fuel economy and vehicle performance for a given speed, or used to operate the vehicle with electric power only.
“Our drivers like driving the Eaton hybrid trucks,” says Brian Sinaly, City Harvest's senior manager of food transportation. “An additional benefit that we're finding is that with the regenerative braking, drivers don't have to do as much braking. That's helping us reduce brake wear and subsequent brake maintenance.”
The electric hybrid drive trucks, under a full-service lease, have an 18-foot Morgan refrigerated body with a roll-up rear door and curb-side swing-door, Thermo King MD 200 model refrigeration unit, and a 2,500-pound capacity Maxon GPT Tuk-A-Way liftgate.
“We anticipate these hybrids will pay for themselves in three years between the fuel savings and the fund's interest,” McLean says.
By the end of 2009, City Harvest plans to have its entire truck fleet converted to hybrid technology, Sinaly adds. The hybrids consume about 30% less diesel fuel.
Transforming the complete truck fleet will reduce fuel costs more than $98,000 per year, and that money will be used for rescuing more food, says McLean. In addition, the hybrid power systems will produce an estimated 560,000 fewer pounds of carbon emissions each year - the equivalent of taking 47 cars off the road.
“City Harvest was founded on the notion of using resources wisely, and using hybrid technology is just another part of this,” McLean says.
So was the addition of three cargo bikes to the fleet late last year. The three-wheel bikes have an insulated carrier that can hold up to 500 pounds of food. They will save the organization an estimated $35,000 a year in cutting truck trips, she notes.
Another effort to reduce truck use is the Street Fleet. It is made up of volunteers that pick up and deliver small donations of food on foot, no more than 20 pounds, or respond to call-in requests.
City Harvest receives about half its food donations from roughly 300 regularly established donors. These are scheduled pick ups, after which food is delivered - all in the same day. The cost to deliver a pound of food is about 28 cents, Dunne says.
The other half of the food donations are tractor trailer loads from food manufacturers and farmers. These are delivered for short-term storage to a refrigerated warehouse in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. From there, the food is distributed by City Harvest trucks, usually within 48 hours.
City Harvest also receives food from call-in donors, including food businesses and individuals or companies running food drives.
The organization is a round-the-clock, seven-day-a-week operation. Food is picked up and delivered using 33 fulltime drivers. Additional part-time drivers are used from October 15 - January 15 - the time when City Harvest receives a larger number of donations. Drivers average between 17 and 24 stops per route.
Including its drivers, the organization relies on more than 90 employees and some 1,800 volunteers.
By rescuing 23 million pounds of food - food that would otherwise go to waste, the organization, every week, typically helps more than 260,000 hungry New Yorkers find their next meal.
All drivers, as well as all operations people, receive safe food handling training, and all local and national food safety guidelines are adhered to. Drivers are provided with full uniforms and Nextel phones. Each truck is equipped with a hand truck and an electric or manual pump-pallet jack.
“We have a good driver retention rate,” says Dunne, “and haven't had any problems finding drivers when we do need them. I think it has to do with attracting the type of drivers who enjoy helping others.”
Keeping track of the fleet operations has become increasingly more difficult as the need for feeding the hungry has increased. This has been compounded by an increase in New York's traffic congestion and the expansion of the City Harvest fleet.
“We've had professional fleet managers since the late 1980s,” notes Dunne. “The transportation operation is an evolving process, and we're continually seeking the greatest efficiencies by looking at every truck, every driver, and every route, because every dollar is very important to us.”
For visibility into the activities and locations of its workforce, City Harvest uses a mobile assets management service from Telargo. The service, purchased about two years ago, combines GPS and wireless communication technologies to help maximize vehicle and fleet utilization; improve routing, scheduling, and dispatching; increase workforce productivity and efficiency; and reduce fuel consumption and costs, Dunne says.
The system includes a temperature-monitoring system to verify that proper refrigerated temperatures are maintained during transit. There is exception reporting, along with alerts and event notification when set temperature parameters are exceeded.
The fleet operation has gotten to the point that it needs a more robust system, Dunne says. It is in the process of changing over to a transportation management application from UPS Logistics Technologies.
City Harvest is also at warehouse management systems to better control inventory.
City Harvest was the brainchild of Helen verDuin Palit. Frequenting a restaurant across the street from the soup kitchen where she worked, Palit noticed that the kitchen help scooped out the inside of potatoes, used the skins to make appetizers, and discarded most of the insides.
Knowing how limited the resources were at the soup kitchen, she asked if she could have the discarded potato portions to use at the soup kitchen, says McLean. “She figured other restaurants might also be throwing food away that could be used, so she enlisted friends and started collecting leftover food from neighborhood restaurants and delivering it to food programs serving meals to those in need. This grew into City Harvest.”
Over its 27 years, the organization figures it has rescued nearly 250 million pounds of food.
City Harvest now also addresses longer-term issues that surround hunger. It runs programs to educate New Yorkers about nutrition, supports healthy eating options in low-income neighborhoods, and engages communities and their citizens in the fight against hunger.
With the fall of the finance houses in New York and the poor economy, “more and more people are going to soup kitchens and food pantries for the first time in their lives,” says McLean. “We're anticipating a big upswing in food going to kitchens and pantries over the next couple years, and we need to determine what we're going to do to face that challenge.
“That means doing things better, faster, and cheaper. We believe (fleet and warehousing) optimization software, and hybrid trucks will help us do this while sticking to City Harvest's premise: that valuable resources - including food - should be used wisely.”
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