June 3, 2016

Christian HELP: A Community Partnership Giving Back in a Big Way

Author: Guest Blogger

Christian HELP volunteer training at Second Harvest Culinary Training ProgramAt a United Way meeting the other day, as non-profit companies introduced their new programs, I heard the words over and over: “thanks to Second Harvest, we were able to…”  It is a repeated theme in the community, and a part of nearly every story.  Food is essential to life and Second Harvest is an essential part of many food distribution programs.

Thanks to our Second Harvest Grocery Alliance Partnership, Christian HELP is able to pick up and distribute food to qualified clients and their families as we seek to help them avoid or overcome poverty through family-sustaining employment. What’s really amazing is that thanks to Christian HELP, Second Harvest is able to deliver employment skills to their clients. Read More …

December 8, 2015

How the Culinary Training Program Changed the Life of a Homeless Student

Author: Melissa Kear

Graduate student Theodore RiffeSince its inception, the Culinary Training Program has always been about helping qualified, at-risk and economically disadvantaged Central Florida adults gain a set of life and culinary skills they can use to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry. It is a 14-week program provided at no charge and designed to assist students with the barriers that have been preventing them from achieving success.

As every class comes to a close, we are always proud of our students as they leave the program into stable jobs or decide to further their education, and take that second chance in life for the better. One example of this is Theodore (Teddy) Riffe from Class 12 in the Culinary Training Program.

“The Second Harvest Culinary Training Program took a person who was homeless and without direction and set him on the path for success.  This program has changed my life by teaching me the skills needed to be a great chef. 

The staff and teachers put in every effort to help me be a better man and assisted me in getting gainful employment.  I’m currently employed as a Line Cook at the Grand Bohemian Hotel and have a career I love! This is a great program where the chefs and staff members are amazing and really care about me. I will be forever thankful for everyone at Second Harvest.”  Read More …

November 20, 2015

Hope Restored

Author: Dave Krepcho

UCF 2015 blogThere’s a lot of incredibly negative news lately in our country and around the world. Divisiveness, verbal and physical attacks, wars with words and wars with bombs. We can easily get swept up into a feeling of despair and a loss of hope. Then there are experiences that feed the soul, I was fortunate to have one of those recently.

I had the privilege and opportunity to speak at UCF’s 22nd Annual Hunger Banquet that their Student Involvement Office organizes. As I made my way through the maze of buildings on the UCF campus I found my destination; the Student Union Building, at the very heart of the campus. I found it fascinating that in the main floor of that building is a giant food court offering a variety of different types of food….and this is where the “Hunger Banquet” is taking place. It was another reminder that food is typically at the center of things and is powerful in terms of drawing people together, whether it’s at school, home or at the office.

The room was filled with 200 – 250 students who are deeply interested in making the world a better place. Wow, talk about a good vibe. The group was split into three groups for dinner. Read More …

November 19, 2015

A Second Harvest Moment

Author: Stephen Currence

Stephen Currence Agency Relations CoordinatorFrom time to time, staff from the Second Harvest Food Bank’s agency relations department like to drop in on our partner feeding programs to understand the logistics of their distribution and also to interact first hand with our clients. Recently, I stopped by a local pantry run by a primarily Hispanic church called L’englise Evangillique.

I arrived a half hour before the distribution was due to start. As I walked across the street to the white painted building on the side of the church, which is the location of the pantry, I was spotted by an older woman in her late sixties holding an empty cardboard box. Although cheerful, it was obvious she had seen the more difficult side of life. She said hello, smiled at me, and told me where the line was. I told her thank you but that I was with Second Harvest and that I was just here to check in and see how things were going.

She looked at me. In her broken English, she said “You. You from Second Harvest?”

“Yes” I said.

I was unprepared for her reaction. She grabbed my arm tightly, lifted her head, and closed her eyes. Tears came down her face and she was unable to speak for a few moments.

“You” She said.  “You are my angel!” Brushing away her tears she said, “My husband left me. My kids are grown and all live in Cuba. I had nothing. Because of you I have food!” She stated she worked as much as she could but still didn’t have money for food. She pointed to a lady close by and said she had just found a place to live with her. She motioned this person came over. “He is my angel!” she shouted, pointing to me. When it was time to leave, I thanked her and she gave me a huge hug that lasted for ages. I left terribly grateful for that experience.

This obviously had nothing to do with me and everything to do with all of the amazing folks at Second Harvest as well in our Partner Agencies. Everyone who doesn’t get to see clients first hand need to know she was talking directly to them as well.

In my short time here, I’ve learned there is so much need. There is vast hunger insecurity in the poor and working poor. And we do an amazing job in servicing this need. But I learned we do so much more. We had given more than food. We had restored hope. We had restored a sense of dignity. We had given someone in a difficult space peace of mind.

What an amazing place to work.

 

Stephen Currence
Agency Relations Coordinator

September 17, 2015

How the Culinary Training Program Changed My Life

Author: Guest Blogger

Lori culinary graduatePrior to coming to the program, I was unemployed and homeless. Being out of work and not having your own place to live was hard.
The challenges I faced while in the program was not working and not having an income. At the beginning of the program, I thought that Chef Izzy was being hard on me but he was not and I overcame that hurdle by understanding where he was coming from and where I was trying to go.

My favorite part of the program was cooking international cuisine from all over the world and meeting different people from different backgrounds. What I learned from the program is that I can do anything that I set my mind to and that you can fall down but never give up trying to stand back up.

The program has changed my life because I learned to believe in myself and to have more faith in myself. I have also learned that I can defeat the stress and problems in my life. Read More …

May 28, 2015

Story of Hope and Courage: Paula

Author: Melissa Kear

Paula's story of hope and courageFor four months, 66-year old disabled widow Paula found herself with no electricity or running water in her apartment. Her $500 a month rent was past due, and with a fixed income of only $700, each month was a series of hard decisions. She had no way to get to the supermarket, and no money to buy groceries while she was there.   For most of those four months, Paula was feeling rather hopeless.

Desperate to access any sort of help that might be available, she reached out to Delia, one of Second Harvest Food Bank’s Outreach Specialists,  for assistance in filling out a SNAP food stamps benefit application.   After hearing Paula’s story and helping her complete her application, Delia provided Paula with a $50 grocery gift card to help hold her over until she could be approved for benefits.   Afterward, Delia simply couldn’t get Paula out of her mind. Read More …