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How to Make a Difference in more than 1,000 Communities

March 10, 2014

By: Julio Suárez, Julio Suárez is Darden’s Director of Diversity Outreach and interim Director of Community Affairs and the Darden Foundation.

How to Make a Difference in more than 1,000 Communities

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Every Darden restaurant can select a local nonprofit to receive a restaurant grant. This year, we awarded 1,135 grants to organizations doing their part to make a positive local difference in three priority areas: Recipe for Success®, Preservation of Natural Resources and Hunger Relief. Many nearby restaurants collaborated and pooled grant resources together to benefit the same organization, deepening the relationship and impact.

Now in its third year, we experienced great anticipation for this year’s program from our employees and our community partners. With growing momentum each year, we can continue to build on the previous year’s program to make long-term impacts in key focus areas that enrich our communities.

Our Recipe for Success® priority focuses on building promising futures for our youth by providing the tools and resources needed for success in school. For example, the Boys & Girls Club of Redlands Inc. in California was selected for a grant from two local Red Lobster restaurants and six Olive Garden restaurants. Part of its goal is to guide neighborhood youth toward high school graduation and to prepare them for success in college afterwards. Other Recipe for Success®recipients include Junior Achievement of Delaware Valley and Big Brothers Big Sisters Lone Star.

Through the Preservation of Natural Resources focus, several of our restaurants selected organizations that promote sustainability and protect our planet’s resources. Organizations such as the Florida Oceanography Society, Waste Not Inc. and Keep Indianapolis Beautiful received grants in this category. Wolf River Conservancy in Memphis, Tennessee, received a grant from a Bahama Breeze, Red Lobster and two Olive Garden restaurants to help preserve the Wolf River and surrounding wetlands. We are passionate about sustainability and the ability to partner with local organizations that are also committed to conservation and the good of our planet.

Hunger Relief focuses on providing food to those in need through food banks, shelters and similar organizations, such as the Rhode Island Community Food Bank. One of our recipients that received a grant from LongHorn Steakhouse and Olive Garden, Meals on Wheels in Anderson, South Carolina, delivers hot, nutritious meals to senior citizens who are mentally or physically unable to prepare their own meals or who are homebound. Hunter Task Force, Inc. in Wisconsin provides food to a network of 80 food pantries, soup kitchens and homeless shelters in Milwaukee County. Many of the recipients in this category also receive ongoing food donations from our restaurants through our Darden Harvest program.

This program is about helping every community we serve via the connections our employees make with the community.  They are involved in getting the word out about the program, selecting the nonprofit to receive the grant and engaging with their selected partners throughout the year.  We are honored to strengthen these relationships and make a difference right in our own backyards. To learn more about our Restaurant Community Grants program, visit the Darden Foundation website.

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