As part of the company’s ongoing efforts to fight hunger, Darden Restaurants has partnered with Feeding America® to enhance mobile food pantry programs in areas with higher levels of food insecurity, including communities of color. Through a $500,000 grant from the Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation and additional support from Darden’s partners, Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, five Feeding America food banks, including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, will each receive a 26-foot refrigerated box truck to help increase access to nutritious food and address transportation needs.
“As a restaurant company, we are uniquely positioned to make a meaningful difference in the fight against hunger, and we are proud to partner with Feeding America to make a positive impact in communities where it is needed most,” said Gene Lee, Chairman and CEO of Darden. “Mobile food pantries are an important tool to help food banks meet the increased need caused by the pandemic. These vehicles will help Feeding America food banks in five different states directly distribute a large supply of food in their communities for years to come.”
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Second Harvest projects that one in six people in Central Florida could experience food insecurity, and people of color are even more likely to face hunger. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, when compared to white households, black households are 2.4 times more likely to be food insecure, and Hispanic households are two times more likely.
“This mobile pantry will make a huge difference in the number of people we can reach and how often we can reach them,” said Dave Krepcho, President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. “Hunger in Orlando and Central Florida is at an all-time high. We estimate we have been reaching about a half-million different people multiple times in the past year.”
Feeding America helped identify food banks serving communities of color with disproportionately high levels of food insecurity and the need to increase their mobile food pantry capacity to serve neighbors facing hunger.
These efforts go hand-in-hand with Darden’s Harvest program. Each day, every Darden restaurant collects surplus, wholesome food that is not served to guests and prepares it for donation to local nonprofit partners. Since its inception, more than 120 million pounds of food — totaling more than 100 million meals — have been donated through the Harvest program.