Perhaps no one understands better than teachers the cruel injustice of schoolchildren who don’t have enough to eat.
So Olive Garden General Manager Breanne Wright, who was once a teacher, and Culinary Professional Teresa Svincek, who has taught for 24 years, decided to do something about it.
Last January, Breanne and Teresa began providing food for 18 homeless students at two nearby high schools every month from their restaurant in Frederick, MD. Each child receives two entrees (the second one is chilled so it can be saved for the weekend) and two salads. School counselors or support staff pick up the food at the restaurant, and it is distributed with sensitivity — even the teachers don’t know which children receive the meals.
“These kids did not create their circumstances,” said Teresa, who teaches English at Urbana High School in Ijamsville, MD. “They deserve the same opportunity to get up each day and go to school as ready to learn as every other child. If we can help them fill their bellies, what could be better? What could be more important?”
Breanne nominated Teresa, who has worked part time at Olive Garden for 20 years, for Olive Garden’s Team Member of the Year award for her efforts. “She is one of the most dedicated team members I’ve ever met,” Breanne said. “She goes above and beyond with every task. She’s also an incredibly compassionate person, and I love partnering with her to help local children.”
Urbana Assistant Principal Cindy Hanlon agrees. “What I love about Teresa Svincek is her passion and advocacy for students.”
The Olive Garden restaurant also provided food for 500 people earlier this year for two Family and Friends Nights at an elementary school with a large number of low-income families. An assistant principal reached out to Breanne for help because attendance at the event, designed to bring together family, friends and community members to praise students for their accomplishments, had been sparse.
Everything changed when Olive Garden stepped up to donate food and host the events. “The school was excited about the boom in attendance and participation, and so were we,” Breanne said.
As a restaurant company that serves 380 million guests annually, Darden is in a unique position to help the 42 million Americans at risk of hunger. The company has focused its philanthropy on helping to provide food for the one in eight people who lack consistent access to meals.
The company proudly partners with Feeding America, the nation’s leading hunger-relief organization. In May, the Darden Foundation donated $2 million to Feeding America, which translates into 20 million meals for people in need.
In addition, every restaurant across Darden’s eight brands donates its surplus, wholesome food to feed the hungry through its Harvest Food Donation Program. About 8 million pounds of food a year is donated and distributed with the help of community partner agencies.
“I understand that some people may not have the means to visit Olive Garden,” Breanne said, “and I think it’s important to bring happiness to them through something I love doing, which is cooking and being part of a restaurant that can offer this kind of hospitality to struggling families in my community.”