At a time when Second Harvest is working to feed record numbers of Central Floridians --including thousands of children who face going to bed hungry -- Darden Restaurants' charitable foundation announced a $750,000 contribution to the food bank.
That includes a $500,000 donation to Second Harvest's recently launched "Building Solutions to Hunger" capital campaign -- an effort that will help the food bank construct a 100,000-square-foot headquarters housing the new Darden Community Kitchen.
The Capital Grille, a Darden fine-dining chain, also kicked in $50,000 from the proceeds of its annual Artist Series Wine Event, and Darden added a $200,000 in-kind donation to Second Harvest.
Dave Krepcho, Second Harvest's president and CEO, said the money comes at a critical juncture. "The harsh reality is that the demand for our services continues to grow and our infrastructure must grow with it," he said of the need for the new headquarters. "Each year, we're forced to turn away more than two million pounds of donated food due to a lack of adequate space and equipment. Capacity is king in the world of hunger relief, and a new facility will provide the ability to more than double our current distribution over the next 10 to15 years."
The new headquarter's Community Kitchen will allow staff, volunteers and job trainees to prepare high-quality, high-volume meals for distribution to Second Harvest's community partners. It is designed to help address one of the root causes of hunger -- lack of employable skills.
"The restaurant industry is expected to create an additional 1.3 million jobs by 2020," Krepcho said. "Our Community Kitchen will provide job training, nutrition education and even life-skills training… An executive chef and assistants will teach participants how to properly prepare and handle food so that they can find jobs in food service."
Darden also runs a food-donation program that last year provided more than 9 million pounds of unused food to hunger-relief agencies across the country. In Central Florida alone, the program meant 182,000 pounds of food to Second Harvest.