In 2009, Adam Lowy was working at his family's moving company, helping families pack up and move to a new home.
After some time working odd jobs at the company, he noticed that many families would leave behind plenty of items — including food.
"When people move, they throw away a whole bunch of stuff: food, clothing, furniture, you name it," Lowy told TODAY. "And what bothered us was the perfectly good, nonperishable food that was getting left behind in the pantry, or simply thrown in the trash."
He started asking relocating families one question — and Move for Hunger was born.
"Moving's stressful, you know? It's not a fun experience, there's a lot going on," Lowy said. "And we started by asking a very simple question: 'Do you want to donate your food when you move?'"
Within a month, Lowy and the moving company had donated 300 pounds of food to a local food bank. It was easy for him and other movers to simply collect food and drop it off at the food bank, and Lowy said that it opened his eyes to the need in his area.
"I had never visited a local food bank before," he said. "Growing up here in Monmouth County, New Jersey, the home of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi and the Jersey Shore, you look around and don't see a lot of poverty or food lines. And (the food bank) told us that there were more than 100,000 people, just in our county, that didn't have enough to eat. And at that point, it became personal."
Since then, Move for Hunger has only grown. When it started, Lowy just used his family's company to connect with moving families, but now, the organization has established a network of over 1,000 moving companies across the United States and Canada. Many of the moving companies are partnered with local food banks, and Move for Hunger has also developed partnerships with apartment communities in all 50 states, relocation management companies, and large companies like Target and Facebook to help reach as many people as possible.
"Essentially, we're bringing a food drive into people's living rooms every day," Lowy said.
When someone gives notice that they're going to move, Move for Hunger provides a program letter that educates about local need, and the moving company will provide a box and a recyclable food collection bag.
"You can simply put aside your nonprofit donations, and then we make sure that food gets picked up and delivered to a local food bank in the community," Lowy said.
In addition to picking up food from moving families, Move for Hunger also coordinates large-scale food drives that aim to collect items that food banks really need while also having some fun.
"They're meant to be fun, but they're also meant to be strategic," said Lowy. "So whether it be our (Valentine's Day) 'Spread the Love' food drive, because peanut butter is one of the most requested items. (It's) shelf stable, high in protein, food banks need it, and it's a really expensive product. Or maybe our Shark Week food drive, (where) we're collecting canned tuna fish because kids like tuna just as much as sharks do."
Since 2009, Move for Hunger has delivered more than 20 million pounds of food to local food banks, which has provided more than 17 million meals to individuals in need. In 2020, the organization stepped up its efforts as food insecurity increased amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"Before the pandemic, there were 37 million Americans struggling with food insecurity," said Lowy. "Now (there's) 54 million Americans struggling with hunger, which includes one in four children, one in 11 seniors. More than 40% of the people visiting food banks over the last year with new to food banks … It's just become very hard."
To cope with the rising need, Lowy said the organization took a look at its "core capabilities" of logistics and transportation. Move for Hunger connected with farms, retailers, refrigeration companies and more to bring both nonperishable and fresh food to local pantries. In 2020, Move for Hunger organized more than 1,000 food drivers and delivered more than 5 million pounds of food.
"We've gotten to take the time to know as many food banks and pantries, big and small," Lowy said. "We want to be a partner for them so they can spend more time getting food out the door rather than trying to figure out how they're going to get food in the door. … We're 11 years in and I feel like we're just getting started."