I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a special blogger event at 2nd Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida here in Orlando. They moved into a new facility earlier this year and I was very interested in checking it it. On the schedule was a tour of the facility, a hands on cooking demonstration in the kitchen, and a lunch and presentation. To say I was impressed was an understatement. I could not get over the amazing facility that they have.
Did you know that 1 in 5 Floridians does not know where their next meal is coming from?
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida helps combat the growing number of Central Floridians going without food. Thanks to their new 100,000+ square foot facility that opened earlier this year they are able to help even more people. Their previous facility was only 35,000 square feet and they had to turn away over 4 million pounds of food last year because of space limitations. On average they distribute more than 36 million pounds of food out of their facility.
Currently the food bank is distributing 70,000 meals a day in the 6 county area that they service. On average 55,000 DIFFERENT people receive assistance through 2nd harvest each week. 2nd Harvest serves the hungry through a variety of programs including the collection & distribution of food, food stamp application assistance, childhood hungry initiatives, second helpings, fresh produce, and disaster relief.
The first stop on our tour was their MASSIVE warehouse. We could see part of it through the windows in the Community Room when we dropped off our things, but it didn’t even big to show just how big the warehouse was. Their new warehouse is incredibly high tech thanks to donations from various corporate sponsors. 9 loading docks, coolers, freezers, and a UPS logistic plan help make distribution easier and more efficient. An online shopping portion of their website means that the agencies they work for can go online and “order” whatever they need. It is then pulled from the shelves and set aside so that all they have to do when they show up is load it into their trucks. How cool is that?
One neat touch, that is found throughout the facility, is artwork done by Disney Imagineers. It starts in the hallways, continues into the volunteer breakroom, and even into the warehouse. How can you not have fun volunteering next to a HUGE Disney mural?
Second Harvest depends on the support of the hundreds of volunteers that come through every year. Their previous facility only had the space to accommodate 40 volunteers at a time. Their new facility allows them to have up to 300 volunteers working at time. A new volunteer break room provides a space they didn’t previously have for volunteers to take breaks or enjoy lunch with their volunteer groups. Volunteers 10 years old and up are allowed to volunteer. Family Nights, held once per month, allow families with children ages 5-9 years old to come and volunteer – so pretty much anyone can help out!
While we were touring the warehouse we saw volunteers putting together Hi-Five Kids Packs. The Hi-Five Kids Pack Program provides nutritious meals to needy children who do not have access to school cafeterias during the weekend. The food packs contain a variety of kid-friendly items such as cereal, shelf-stable milk and juice, fruit cups and more. These packs are distributed to elementary school children in 3 counties.
One big thing this facility has that their old one did not is a fully functioning kitchen. A HUGE fully functioning kitchen. The Darden Foundation Community Kitchen is a 2,000-square-foot commercial kitchen space designed as an integral part of Second Harvest’s holistic approach to fighting hunger and poverty. Thanks to this kitchen 2nd Harvest is able to offer a 12-week culinary program focused on foodservice-based technical, life and employability skills training for adults; in-house full-service catering with affordable event space available for your next event, meeting, or seminar; and bulk and disaster relief food partnerships with state and community organizations.
The kitchen combined with their new Community Room provides a source of income for 2nd Harvest that their didn’t previously have. Groups, organizations, companies, and individuals can now host fully catered events at 2nd Harvest. During this special blogger event we were able to try some of their food and let me tell you it was amazing! We even got a chance to make our own dessert – an ale-infused Bavarian cream-filled doughnut with maple-bacon glaze. Oh. My. Goodness. It is a good thing they only had enough for us each to have one because I easily could of have eaten a plateful!
The community room provides 3,100 square feet of meeting space, along with anything and everything you might need to make your event special and memorable. All the details about rental pricing (which is quite reasonable) and catering (again, very reasonable) can be found on their website. They even have holiday part packages that are available mid-October through mid-January. So if you are looking for some where different and super cool to have your next event, definitely check them out. Plus you would be helping a great organization.
I want to thank 2nd Harvest for inviting me to attend this fabulous event. It was so great to learn more about this amazing organization and all that they do. Times have been tough the last few years and they are doing everything they can to make things a little bit better. If you are looking for a volunteer organization or a service project for the holidays (think food drives), please consider helping out 2nd Harvest. Volunteer information and information on how to host a food or fund drive can be found on their website.