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Olive Garden helps feed hungry

Partners with nonprofit to distribute food

December 29, 2016
By J.T. Whitehouse , The Town Crier

Olive Garden started a program in 2003 called the Olive Garden Harvest program, donating high-quality food items to local community banks to help feed the hungry.

Olive Garden restaurants across the United States began donating unused, wholesome surplus foods as part of an ongoing commitment to hunger relief, partnering with Feeding America to support its efforts to end hunger.

Since the program began, Olive Garden restaurants have donated more 35 million pounds of food. It also donates meals to help feed local families affected by natural disasters through Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program.

Article Photos

Missy Rondeau, Boardman Olive Garden service manager, weighs a donation of tomato sauce that is among the pickup items for the Big Reach Center for Hope’s food rescue van on Friday. The van stops twice a week at the Olive Garden for donations of food for the needy.

The restaurants give back through a variety of local efforts, such as delivering meals in times of needs and support nonprofits and organizations.

On the local level, the Boardman Olive Garden does its share of giving back to the community. It has partnered with the Big Reach Center for Hope and has locally contributed more than 68,000 pounds of food, or 56,600 meals since 2003.

"We do this year-round, not just on the holidays," Missy Rondeau, Boardman Olive Garden service manager, said.

She said the food comes from orders that were placed but not picked up and preparing more food than was used during the day. The excess, unused food items are bagged and froze for Big Reach Center. Soups and sauces are one of the common items to be donated.

Founded in 2004, the Big Reach Center of Hope, located on the campus of Greenford Christian Church, provides prayer, food and clothing, resources and education to low-income and underserved individuals and families. It focuses on people of the Mahoning Valley by providing both tangible and spiritual needs. Today, the nonprofit reaches more than 50,000 adults and children across the region in northeast Ohio.

One of the advantages of partnering with the Big Reach Center is the fact they operate a "food rescue" van, which makes trips Tuesdays and Fridays to 22 local venders that donate good unused food items to be handed out to help feed those in need.

"We have at least 1,000 families each month (that) come to us for help," van driver Steve Sanders said. "When they leave [our facility] it is with a shopping cart full of food. Many have said they had no idea they could get that much food."

The Big Reach Center also provides small household items along with educational classes and connections to church and community resources.

Tuesdays and Fridays are the nonprofits only distribution days, so the food Sanders picked up at Olive Garden, which was 32 pounds worth, was given out that evening.

Both Rondeau and Sanders agreed most food banks and agencies experience an increase in need during the winter months, a time when most distribute assorted goods to help entire families.

The two said the need was great during the holiday season, but it continues 365 days a year, and sources often diminish, which is why the center and restaurant will continue their partnership year-round.

Rondeau said everyone at Olive Garden is proud to be a part of a program that helps so many on a continuing basis.

 
 

 

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