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 will each receive a 26-foot refrigerated box truck to help increase access to nutritious food and address transportation needs, including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida

This mobile pantry will make a huge difference in the amount of people we can reach and how often we can reach them. 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.

Dave Krepcho

President and CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (SHFBCF) secures and distributes food and grocery products to approximately 550 local nonprofit feeding programs throughout Orange, Osceola, Lake, Seminole, Volusia and Brevard counties. Last year, with the help of food and financial donors, volunteers, and a caring, committed community, the food bank has distributed enough food for 76 million meals to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, daycare centers, and Kids Cafes. Second Harvest has been distributing enough food for 300,000 a meals a day since mid-March 2020 – that’s doubled the pre-pandemic daily distribution amount. To learn more about SHFBCF, visit www.FeedHopeNow.org.

“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, Feeding America projects that one in six people 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.

“Hunger in America is a devastating reality for millions of our neighbors. The pandemic has created an increased need for food assistance and caused major disruptions for charitable food distribution,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, Chief Executive Officer for Feeding America. “Mobile food pantries are a critical solution to addressing both concerns. These refrigerated vehicles will remove significant barriers to getting food to vulnerable populations in five different communities. We are grateful to Darden, Penske and Lineage for making this possible.”

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.

Food banks receiving this gift include:
• Second Harvest of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.
• Feeding the Valley Food Bank in Midland, Ga.
• Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana in Shreveport, La.
• Mid-South Food Bank in Memphis, Tenn.
• San Antonio Food Bank in San Antonio, Texas

Darden and the Darden Foundation have a long-standing commitment to help fight hunger and have been partners with Feeding America for more than 10 years. Since 2018, the Darden Foundation has provided $6.5 million to support member food banks across all 50 states. 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.