Transforming Lives Through the Power of Food – Marion County Young Farmers Volunteer at Second Helpings
Here in the United States, we are very fortunate to have access to an abundant and low-cost food supply, thanks to the freedoms of our culture and the hardworking farmers that provide it. But have you ever had something you swore that you would use when you were in the store, but ended up tossing the entire package because you didn’t use it and it went bad? Or have you ever been to an event where they plated meals that ended up with empty seats and leftover meals?
I don’t like to admit it, but I have guilty of this before. I have gotten better at only buying the food I’m going to definitely use, but the unfortunate truth is that useable food is wasted every single day. With the bulk of that waste being in the food service industry.
And that is how, three chefs — Kristen Cordoza, Bob Koch, and Jean Paison, formed Second Helpings, Inc. They saw firsthand the tremendous amount of waste in the food service industry and were acutely aware that most programs serving the disadvantaged often struggled to provide for their clients’ most basic nutritional needs. So the three chefs set forth to solve all four problems—food waste, hunger, job training, and a source of skilled labor for the local food service industry—with one solution: turn unused food into meals and jobs.
Second Helpings began in 1998.They accept donated perishable and overstocked food to prepare nutritious meals for thousands of hungry children and adults every day, and distributes them free of charge through local social service agencies in Greater Indianapolis. Second Helpings also trains unemployed and underemployed adults for meaningful careers in the culinary industry with their Culinary Job Training Program.
“We’re more than a soup kitchen or a food pantry – we’re a community kitchen. We’re not just teaching people to cook – we’re providing an avenue for people to transform their own lives. We don’t just collect food – we rescue food because we can’t stand to see it go to waste when others have none. Today, the need is so much greater than we ever imagined when we began – so we’ll go on undeterred. ” – via SecondHelpings.org
In their first full month of operation, 37 volunteers helped rescue 7,000 pounds of food and prepare 3,074 meals. Thanks to their founders, partners, board, staff, and volunteers, they currently turn over a 100,000 pounds of rescued food into 50,000 meals every month! What an impact!
To reach this accomplishment each month, Second Helpings relies on 700 regular volunteers to fight hunger in our community. Volunteers chop vegetables and cook meals in their Hunger Relief Kitchen. They deliver food to recipient agencies and lend their expertise to office operations, and they also share Second Helpings’ story and impact in the community.
And last week I, along with the Marion County Young Farmers, got to be one of these volunteers!
We arrived and helped full-time volunteers complete various tasks in their Hunger Relief Kitchen. We prepped ingredients that would later be used to create the delicious meals they serve to the community, and helped clean up the kitchen at the end of the evening. The main ingredient we prepped was chopping onions. I did have to apologize to my fiance and coworkers for the intense onion smell that lingered on my hands (despite many hand-washings), but just knowing that I was able to help in someway made it a very wonderful and rewarding experience.
Marion County Farm Bureau (MCFB) has been a long-time supporter of Second Helpings and wanted to continue that support through volunteering. In addition to monetary donations, MCFB Incorporated and Insurance purchased eight livestock projects from Marion County 4-H youth and donated the meat to Second Helpings. This is the fourth year that MCFB has purchased livestock at the annual Marion County Fair and donating the product to help feed Indiana communities. Over 1,300 pounds of meat was provided to Second Helpings.
As a group, we had a great evening volunteering at Second Helpings and met some wonderful people. We hope to make it more of a regular event and are grateful to be a part of their mission to transform lives through the power of food. Thank you, Second Helpings!
If you live in the Indy area and would like to join us in volunteering, or learn more about Second Helpings, visit their website at www.SecondHelpings.org, LIKE them on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
As a 20-something living in Indy, I decided to join this cool group called Indy Hub that advocates for Indy’s twenty-/thirty-somethings, and acts as a resource to help us learn about and become a part of the city.
If you’ve read any of my blog posts, or any social media posts for that matter, (or heck, just by looking at my blog header photo) you can probably tell that I am passionate about agriculture and food. So when I heard that Indy Hub was putting on an event called “Raise Your IQ: Indiana Food” I knew I couldn’t miss it!
At the event we were given the opportunity to have breakout sessions with two of the four panel members and then hear from all of them during a panel discussion. The panel members included:
Don Villwock, Indiana Farmer and President of Indiana Farm Bureau on new methods of agriculture and how they support a stronger economy and state for all of us.
Clay Robinson, Founder of Sun King Brewing on building a new career through food.
Dr. Lisa Harris, CEO and Medical Director of Wishard Health Services on envisioning the future of public health through food.
Aster Bekele, Founder and Executive Director of Felege Hiywot Center on her journey of community development and youth empowerment through a tiny urban garden.
The two panel members I listed to were Clay from Sun King, and Aster from the Felege Hiywot Center.
I’ve heard of Sun King before, but who wants to pass up a free sample and be able to pick the brain of one of the most popular local breweries in the city? Not this girl!
Clay talked about the increase in appreciation for local artisans, local agriculture and how people are recognizing that there are opportunities for these things within the local community. He also said that he is proud to be local and wants to stay local. He wants people in Chicago to say, “When are you expanding to Chicago?” so that he can tell them, “Never, when are you going to come to Indiana?”
He wants his beer to be known as “Indy’s local beer” that’s exclusive to the city and people come to Indy to buy it. And I love that philosophy! I know not everything can be kept local, but it boosts the economy and ups the hype about the cool things we’re doing in Indiana. Keep up the good work, Clay!
DidYouKnow: Indiana’s popcorn crop is the second-largest in the country and Sun King used this as their inspiration for their Popcorn Pilsner that is crafted with 2 pounds of Indiana grown popcorn per keg!
My second session was with Aster from the Felege Hiywot Center and I was very interested to learn more about this organization. Aster came here from Ethiopia and recognized that kids in her neighborhood weren’t appreciating everything they have here in the U.S. (education, resources, etc.) so she started the center to serve urban youth of Indianapolis, and teach them about gardening and environmental preservation as well as encourage them to embrace the virtues of community service. They have a really neat story so be sure to learn more about them on their website!
What I thought was so neat about her story was her passion for youth.
“Be patient and get them involved,” said Aster. “Also really listen to their ideas and be the resource the need. Sustainability continues through generations and the youth have to be able to carry it on.”
And that is so true! I am passionate about teaching youth about their food and agriculture and it was refreshing to see her putting an emphasis on it. I was so inspired by Aster’s work that I might actually help volunteer there! And you can too!
To end the night we heard from the panel and talked about what is exciting about Indiana food, sustainability, and how we can continue the conversation about the importance of knowledge about our food.
Indiana Farm Bureau President and Indiana farmer, Don Villwock said that he is excited about the opportunities for young and smaller famers to get involved with the increase in the local food movement.
As a farmer, he also emphasized the importance of sustainability.
“Sustainable farming is leaving his farm better than when his grandfather farmed it,” Don explained. “Water is clean, soil health is better, air is less polluted, and the crops that we raise are healthy, more nutritious and safer.”
This was such a powerful quote to me because it shows that despite what some might think, farmers really do care about their land and the crops they grow. That is their livelihood and they eat the same things we do so they want to make sure to take care of their resources.
My final take-a-way point of the night was from Dr. Lisa Harris about making time to actually gather around a table for a meal together. This really stuck with me because by being from a large family, this was one of the things I most valued about growing up. And I want to encourage everyone to make an effort to get back to cooking meals at home and eating at the dinner table. It sets a good example for your children and is such a good way to keep you connected to your food, and as a family.
Overall this event was so much fun! There was a great turnout with people from many different professions around the city. I caught up with a few participants to see what they took away from the discussion.
Click the link above to listen to physician Risheet Patel of Fishers and psychiatry resident Aimee Sirois share their take on learning more about happenings in Indiana food.
Thanks to everyone who came out to encourage the conversation about Indiana Food! I can’t wait until the next IndyHub event!