It’s Not Just About Tomato Soup!

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida (Second Harvest) is a member of Feeding America, a network of foodbanks across the country. Each day they provide 80,000 meals in the Central Florida five county region; each week more than 55,000 people are served through Second Harvest and their partnership with over 550 other non-profit agencies. On Wednesday BJ’s Wholesale Club took time away from their annual conference to do a service project for Second Harvest. When I met up with Sasha, Development Director for Second Harvest, she shared with me a story:

During Sasha’s first week at Second Harvest she met a client, a single mother with twin five year old boys. This mother came to get food. She shared with Sasha that even though she had a job she didn’t make enough to feed the kids until her next pay check. This mother would go into fast food restaurants and steal catsup packets. She would take them home, empty them into a pan, and add water. This single mother of two told her boys they were having tomato soup for dinner. Sasha’s heart broke; she knew she found an organization that she wanted to be a part of, an organization that made a difference in the lives of many each and every day.

Second Harvest has an increase in demand as the school year ends and summer begins. Kids that would normally get free meals at school will miss many meals during the summer. In Central Florida one in four kids will go hungry; there are some pockets where it’s as high as one in three kids. The solution: High Five Packs! This is where BJ’s and the service project enters in. BJ’s was challenged to beat a former record for packaging the High Five Packs. These packs consist of nonperishable items that don’t need a stove, can opener, refrigeration, or the help of an adult to open. The 400 plus BJ’s employees, largely General Managers and Corporate Executives, were challenged to put together 21,000 High Five Packs in two hours!! What a challenge! (The former record was achieved by 1400 Kohl’s employees packaging 20,000 High Five Packs.) This meets the need of almost ⅓ of the annual need for Second Harvest. What an impact two hours can make on the lives of hungry children in our community!

BJ’s operates in 15 states, and likes to give back in the areas of hunger, education, self-sufficiency, and health care. Their spokesperson shared that several years ago the employees noticed the waste of perfectly good food being thrown out, and they brought this to the attention of the Executives. Policies were changed to allow BJ’s to give food to Feeding America Food Banks. In the two and a half years since they made the change to their policies they have given 18 Million pounds of food away! This not only allows many people in the markets they serve to have a meal that would otherwise go hungry; but, also allows them to pass on the cost savings to their members because they no longer pay to have all of the food hauled away as waste. The COO said the idea behind a service project during their annual conference is to “show their employees how easy it is to get involved in the community. Most people think it’s more involved and requires more effort than it does”. Once they see how easy it is to make a difference, his hope is that they go back home and get involved in making a difference in their local communities. Sasha from Second Harvest says, “I love working with energetic people that want to make a difference. People are good and want to do good”. And remember, it’s not just about tomato soup; it’s about the hungry child you’ve passed by today.

Charity Magazine covered this event at Swan and Dolphin on Wednesday, April 2 2014.