The Darden Restaurants Inc. Foundation has recently donated refrigerated trucks to 10 food banks in six states along with grants for food and other needs, the company said Tuesday.
Working with Feeding America, the Orlando, Fla.-based casual-dining company’s foundation has awarded a $2 million grant, with support from Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, to give each of the 10 food banks a 26-foot vehicle that can transport 12,000 pounds of food at a time and $26,000 to use for food and other needs.
“Feeding people is what we do, but the hard reality is that there are still too many families in communities we serve who struggle to put a meal on the table,” said Gene Lee, Darden chairman and CEO, in a statement.
“We’re uniquely positioned to help, and by leveraging our scale and relationships with partners like Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, we’re proud to do our part to help get food into the hands of people who need it,” Lee said.
The foundation aimed at reaching communities of color by awarding the gift to food banks that include:
- Community Food Bank of Central Alabama in Birmingham, Ala.
- East Texas Food Bank in Tyler, Texas
- Feeding the Gulf Coast in Theodore, Ala.
- Feeding Northeast Florida in Jacksonville, Fla.
- Feeding Tampa Bay in Tampa, Fla.
- Food Bank of North Alabama in Huntsville, Ala.
- Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana in Monroe, La.
- Forgotten Harvest in Detroit, Mich.
- Mississippi Food Network in Jackson, Miss.
- Tarrant Area Food Bank in Fort Worth, Texas
Darden and the Darden Foundation have partnered with Feeding America for more than 10 years. This donation marks the latest effort in Darden’s ongoing commitment to help fight hunger, and it follows one earlier this year that provided five refrigerated trucks for food banks in Columbus, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio, Texas; and Shreveport, La.
Within their first four months, those five vehicles enabled more than 300 mobile food pantries to distribute more than 8.7 million meals in their communities, the company said.
Because of the COVID19 pandemic, 60 million people sought support from food banks, food pantries and other private food assistance programs in 2020 — an increase of 50% from 2019. U.S. Department of Agriculture data for 2020 also noted Black individuals were 3.2 times more likely than white counterparts to experience food insecurity in 2020 and Latino individuals were 2.5 times more likely.
“Millions of families continue to face impossible decisions — like choosing to put food on the table or pay their rent,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, CEO of Feeding America. “We are grateful to Darden, Penske and Lineage for providing vehicles to member food banks, helping them to distribute more food safely to people who need us most.”
Darden said Feeding America helped identify food banks serving communities of color with disproportionately high levels of food insecurity to receive a truck and to help increase mobile food pantry capacity.
Since 2017, the Darden Foundation has provided more than $10 million to support Feeding America member food banks across all 50 states.
Darden’s also has a “Harvest” program at its restaurants which collect surplus food that is not served to guests and prepares it for donation to local nonprofit partners. Since its inception, more than 127 million pounds of food — totaling more than 106 million meals — have been donated through the Harvest program.
Darden owns such restaurant brands as Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen, Yard House, The Capital Grille, Seasons 52, Bahama Breeze and Eddie V’s. The Darden Foundation was created in 1995.
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