New grant from charitable arm of Olive Garden parent company will help increase access to food in communities of color
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 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, 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:
- 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
- Second Harvest of Central Florida in Orlando, Fla.
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.