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Why We Do It – Second Helpings

Occupying Awesomeness

by Ben Shine, originally printed in Punchnels.

I write and talk about Second Helpings all the time.

I’m the communications guy, so it’s my job. I give the numbers. I tell the story that, at Mary Rigg [1], when asked what one thing would help them do better in school, kids say it would beClass 64 Fish Dayto have a good dinner. I say, “Second Helpings is transforming lives through the power of food. We do that by rescuing [2] over-prepared food that would otherwise go to waste and turning it into 3000 meals [3] each day that feed hungry children, adults & seniors at over 60 [4] social service agencies while also training [5] unemployed and underemployed people for careers in the culinary industry.” That’s our official language, and it’s what we do each day.

But what I think is truly exciting about Second Helpings is that we’re a social change agency. We’re not just about meeting some basic needs for poor people and moving on with our day. That’s why, in addition to talking about Second Helpings at work, I also talk about it to almost anyone who might listen. I’m kind of obsessed with what we do.

Second Helpings changes lives through a mix of boot straps and heart strings.

We lovingly demand that the food industry stop wasting so much food, but we do it by offering to come and get their extra food and give it a new, meaningful purpose. We’ve done that with 16 million [6] pounds that would have gone to the landfill.

We give our culinary job training students an extraordinary chance to re-imagine their lives [7], but we expect them to show up every day, on time and with a good attitude. We’ve sent over 480 graduates out to new jobs in restaurants all over town.

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We hate to see anyone go hungry, so we’ve cobbled together a mean crew of volunteers and staff to cook up enormous quantities of cheesy mac (with hidden vegetables), stir fries with rice and potato-beef casseroles. This December, we’ll deliver our 6 millionth meal – free to one of our partner agencies [4].

We expect the community to fight hunger and poverty, and when a retired Lilly executive volunteers next to someone serving court-mandated community service, everyone is equal. And we all eat lunch together, a lunch that is prepared each day by our culinary job training students.

Second Helpings feels good; but it also just makes sense. Because it doesn’t make sense to throw away food. And it doesn’t make sense that anyone would be hungry. Put the two together, and it makes me think our culture has gone bonkers-level crazy. If it’s true that we waste about 40% of our whole food supply and one in five kids doesn’t know where their next meal will come from, then things have gotten all messed up and someone’s got to do something about it. Second Helpings does.