Being a Good Neighbor is believing the service outside the restaurant is as meaningful as the service inside. More importantly, it’s supporting that belief through local action. We support the critical services of hunger relief, disaster relief and shelter across the country, as well as integral community programs in our hometown of Central Florida. Some of our partners include Feeding America food banks, American Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity International, Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida and the Coalition for the Homeless of Central Florida.
The Red Cross responds to nearly 70,000 disasters a year, spanning from isolated incidents to traumas that impact thousands of Americans. Every year, the organization spends approximately $450 million preparing for and responding to these disasters by providing basic needs such as feeding, sheltering, health services and distribution of recovery items.
A dedicated partner of the American Red Cross since 1997 and an American Red Cross Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP) member since 2010, Darden has helped ensure that trained workers, shelters and supplies are at the ready year-round. During 2012, meals and bottled water from Darden Restaurants kept people fed and hydrated in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania after Sandy; in Mississippi after Isaac; in Colorado, where wildfires raged; and in Connecticut following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
In addition, alongside its ADGP commitment of $50,000 to the American Red Cross Mid-Florida Region, Darden Restaurants’ executive leadership and associates are active participants in the region’s boards, services and programs.
Habitat for Humanity International, is dedicated to providing safe and affordable housing to individuals around the world. With more than 1,500 U.S. affiliates and 70 worldwide organizations, Habitat for Humanity has helped more than 3 million people build or repair more than 600,000 houses.
Darden has a partnership with Habitat for Humanity to provide furnishings and smallwares from recently remodeled restaurants to their local ReStore retail outlets throughout the United States. In 2012, 250 restaurants were remodeled and $755,710 in furnishings was donated. Since 2010, Darden has contributed more than $2.3 million gift-in-kind furniture and décor donations to Habitat for Humanity International from 484 remodeled restaurants.
As a key investor in the future of hunger relief, Darden strongly supported the creation and opening of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s new 100,000-sq.-ft. distribution hub and hunger relief center in March 2013. The center houses one of the food bank’s most exciting new endeavors, the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen. The kitchen is a state-of-the-art facility that serves as a production area for meals for partner agencies and children’s summer programs, and it has an entrepreneurial component through on-site event catering.
The most innovative element of the Community Kitchen is a 12-week intensive culinary training program, which provides low-income adults with culinary and life skills training needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry. The program is designed to help address one of the root causes of hunger in the community – unemployment and underemployment often resulting from a lack of adequate job skills or training.
Up to 75 students will participate annually, gaining a firm footing in basic culinary arts – along with financial literacy, personal planning, interpersonal and communications skills. Students receive individual attention and case management as part of their training, and are assisted with job placement with some of Central Florida’s finest food providers. The program is designed to complement two-and four-year formal culinary programs in the area, should students choose to continue with their culinary education. Students spend their last two weeks in a full-time internship before returning to the Darden Community Kitchen for a final project: putting everything they've learned to the test by developing an original dish for future inclusion in Second Harvest's catering menu!