Darden Restaurants is helping Feeding America add refrigerated trucks for 10 member food banks to support mobile pantry programs and food distribution in communities with the highest need. Through a $2 million grant from the Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation, and support from partners Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, each food bank will receive 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.
Food banks receiving this gift 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
“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,” says Gene Lee, Chairman and CEO of Darden Restaurants. “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.”
Because of the 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. Rates of food insecurity are higher among people of color. According to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, when compared to White individuals, Black individuals were 3.2 times more likely and Latino individuals were 2.5 times more likely to experience food insecurity in 2020.
In addition, the pandemic has created challenges for charitable food distribution. Feeding America helped identify food banks serving communities of color with disproportionately high levels of food insecurity to receive a truck to help increase their mobile food pantry capacity.
“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. “Food banks are focused on improving people’s access to food, particularly in communities of color where people are inordinately impacted by food insecurity. Refrigerated trucks help make that possible. 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.”
Responding to the Need
Darden and the Darden Foundation have been partners 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 located in Columbus, Ga.; Memphis, Tenn.; Orlando, Fla.; San Antonio, Texas; and Shreveport, La. Within their first four months, these vehicles enabled more than 300 mobile food pantries that distributed more than 8.7 million meals in their communities.
The $2 million grant also provides financial support for the Feeding America network of food banks in communities served by Darden’s restaurants. Since 2017, the Darden Foundation has provided more than $10 million to support Feeding America member food banks across all 50 states.
These efforts go hand-in-hand with Darden’s Harvest program. 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 127 million pounds of food — totaling more than 106 million meals — have been donated through the Harvest program.