"On Second Thought" host Virginia Prescott speaks with Andrea Jaron.

Images depicting one of the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project's partners preparing and packaging meals to be donated and distributed.
Caption
One of the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project's partners, Bold Catering & Design, as they prepare and package meals to be donated and distributed. These partnerships are firing up underutilized kitchens to help address food insecurity amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Credit: Courtesy of Second Helpings Atlanta

The coronavirus pandemic has amplified already existing issues of food insecurity. Local food banks have been a lifeline for many people who are struggling with unemployment, closed businesses, and financial challenges overall.

Meanwhile, many large corporations aren’t open, or aren’t operating at full capacity, and their kitchens are going underused. That’s why two Atlanta nonprofits – the Atlanta Community Food Bank and Second Helpings Atlanta – have teamed up for the “Atlanta Community Kitchen Project.” 

Together with corporate and nonprofit partners, they are coordinating with companies to fire up those underutilized ovens and cook up meals to donate and distribute. Andrea Jaron, executive director of Second Helpings Atlanta, joined On Second Thought to explain how the idea came to be, and how it works.

Employees from one of the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project's partners, Bold Catering & Design, stand by a ready-to-go shipment of prepared meals.
Caption
Employees from one of the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project's partners, Bold Catering & Design, stand by a ready-to-go shipment of prepared meals.
Credit: Courtesy of Second Helpings Atlanta

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On how Second Helpings Atlanta was able to leverage existing partnerships for the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project

Second Helpings Atlanta has relationships with the stadiums, with corporate kitchens, with restaurants, with grocery stores – and part of our regular food rescue operations, which is really the primary element of our work, was about picking up this surplus fresh food and delivering it. And so when the corporate kitchens shuttered because people weren't coming to the office anymore, and when the stadiums were closed because they couldn't hold their sporting events or concerts or anything else that they had on their schedules, it was just very logical for Second Helpings Atlanta to get involved. We already have these relationships with these entities and we've got great relationships with partner agencies throughout the community. We know how they work. We know what their capacity is in terms of being able to store food, whether it's in a refrigerator or a freezer. We know how many people they serve and the days of the week that they serve. And so it was a very logical partnership for us to get involved with.

On how both the pandemic and school closures are impacting food insecurity among children

The schools are in the process of making decisions on how they're going to be able to restart and whether it's going to be in the classroom or virtual. A lot of kids get their meals at school, so certainly this summer element [of the project] helped to fill that gap. Many of our partners in this project are agencies that really do serve kids and so they were acutely aware of the need to be getting food to families. I have a couple of meetings scheduled this week to look at what we’re going to do going forward, in trying to understand what we’re anticipating the needs are going to be and how we can continue to positively impact the issue and get food out there. It's a challenge. There's no doubt about it.

We are addressing this food insecurity question and we're also helping to have a positive impact on some of the unemployment challenges.

On how the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project is addressing both food insecurity and unemployment issues during COVID-19

The kitchen partners are doing the cooking, so their employees are being asked to come back and they're in the kitchens and they're preparing the food. And that's really part of the beauty of this whole partnership is, you know, we are addressing this food insecurity question and we're also helping to have a positive impact on some of the unemployment challenges. The fact that these kitchens were able to have their staff come back and be the ones to prepare the food and provide a paycheck for them is really incredible. And, you know, I talked to our kitchen partners and they feel like it's such a gift to be able to be involved in this. They have staff that didn't want to be idle. It's hard to be sitting on the sidelines in this circumstance and so many people are forced into that. And so the partnership is really meeting the needs in so many ways.

On how, beyond donations and volunteering, members of the community can help

One of the biggest things that regular people can do right now is when you go to the grocery store, really think long and hard about what it is that you're purchasing and only purchase what you're going to consume. Because if people would buy what they're going to consume and not have excess, that keeps food out of landfills – which is something that we're certainly trying to address in terms of impacting the environment. At the same time, if you only buy what you're going to consume, then you're leaving things on the shelves, and that allows the grocery store to be able to pull those items off before they are reaching their sell-by date and they donate them to food rescue organizations. And Second Helpings Atlanta is obviously a major one in that area, too. That's a pretty easy thing for everybody to do and think about every single day.

When you go to the grocery store, really think long and hard about what it is that you're purchasing and only purchase what you're going to consume.

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