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Darden Restaurants, Olive Garden’s parent company, recently unveiled a massive initiative to help five Feeding America food banks in five states, including Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.

According to Feeding America, food insecurity has increased to impact one out of every six Americans, and rates are disproportionately high among communities of color. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, food banks have also experienced significant disruptions in how they get food to those who need it.

Feeding America helped identify food banks serving communities of color with disproportionately high levels of food insecurity that needed to increase their mobile food-bank capacity to serve beneficiaries.

Second Harvest Food Bank, which serves Volusia and neighboring counties, is one of the five food banks across the Southeast for which Darden obtained a 26-foot refrigerated truck for mobile food-pantry programs, a spokeswoman said.

“This mobile pantry will make a huge difference in the amount of people we can reach and how often we can reach them,” Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, said in a news release. “Hunger in Orlando and Central Florida is at an all-time high. We estimate we have been reaching about a half-million different people multiple times in the past year.”

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida secures and distributes food and grocery products to approximately 550 local nonprofit feeding programs throughout Volusia, Seminole, Orange, Osceola, Lake and Brevard counties. Last year, with the help of food and financial donors, volunteers and a caring, committed community, Second Harvest distributed enough food for 76 million meals to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, day care centers and Kids Cafes.

Second Harvest has been distributing enough food for 300,000 meals a day since mid-March 2020 — double the pre-pandemic daily distribution amount. To learn more about Second Harvest, visit www.FeedHopeNow.org.

As part of Darden’s ongoing efforts to fight hunger, the company partnered with Feeding America. Through a $500,000 grant from the Darden Restaurants Inc. Foundation and additional support from Darden’s partners, Penske Truck Leasing and Lineage Logistics, Second Harvest and the four other Feeding America food banks each received a 26-foot refrigerated box truck.

Last August, the Darden Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the company, awarded Second Harvest a $69,000 grant to help provide hunger relief to local families. Darden also made similar grants to 192 other food banks last year.

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