Bernadette DeRodes takes 90 minutes out of each month to help Atlanta’s less fortunate. She hops in her SUV, picks up pounds of unconsumed food, and literally drives it into the hands of the city’s hungry.
DeRodes is one of over 350 volunteers that help Second Helpings Atlanta with its mission to reduce hunger and food waste throughout the five county metro area.
“It’s amazing. Sometimes when I go to pick up food, my car is completely overflowing,” says DeRodes. “And it’s so sad to think that otherwise, all of that food would have gone to waste.”
As a dedicated nonprofit, Second Helpings Atlanta delivers nutritious food from donors around the city to its Partner Agencies assisting Atlanta’s hungry and underserved communities. With help from its passionate volunteers, the organization has rescued over 6 million pounds of surplus food from being thrown away.
Executive director of Second Helpings Atlanta, Joe Labriola, says that the average food-insecure family skips approximately 100 meals per month, simply because the funds are not available. Despite this fact, a staggering 40 percent of the United States food production is never consumed.
“If we were to rescue just 15 percent of that unconsumed food, we could feed 25 million Americans per year,” says Labriola.
Second Helpings and its collective efforts are certainly making a growing impact on Atlanta. In 2016, the organization and its volunteers rescued enough food for more than 1.1 million meals per one individual. This is a 60 percent higher total than the year before.
To put this number into perspective, if 1.1 million people were asked to join hands on Atlanta’s Interstate 285, they could circle the city a total of 18 times.
Since its 2004 conception as a social action project in Sandy Springs, the organization has flourished into the rapidly growing stand-alone nonprofit it is today.
DeRodes and her fellow volunteers deliver to Partner Agencies—ranging from soup kitchens to organizations that provide transitional and emergency housing for Atlanta’s homeless.
“Many of the agencies that we deliver to would not exist in their capacity without the food that we provide,” says Volunteer Coordinator Laura Labovitz. “It has allowed agencies to expand their reach because it frees up time that would have previously been spent preparing meals.”
These partner nonprofits are able to better serve their clients from both a nutritious perspective and at their core services.
DeRodes often delivers food to My Sister’s House, a Partner Agency associated with the Atlanta Mission on Howell Mill Road. It provides shelter for Atlanta’s women and children, and is just one of over 30 agencies that Second Helpings supports.
“It’s the kid that was going to go hungry that night, but now has a warm dinner” says Labovitz. “Or the single parent who may not have a school lunch for their child the next day, but now they do.”
The meals provided to these underserved communities would not be possible without SHA’s long list of supportive donors. Donations come from several types of organizations, such as groceries stores and farmers markets, schools, corporate dining halls, and Atlanta restaurants.
“Our donors are part of the community of lives that we transform,” says Labriola. “These people become enthusiastic advocates and the process becomes a labor of love.”
By largely influencing everyone that becomes associated with its initiative, the nonprofit impacts much more than the lives of Atlanta’s underserved. The Corporate Kitchen Food Rescue Program and Food for Thought Schools Program both help spread the Second Helpings mission by educating Atlanta’s youth and business people about food insecurity and the environmental impacts of food waste.
“We are hopefully providing a solution that others can look at and replicate throughout different regions and eventually on a national basis,” says Labriola. “And we couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.”
DeRodes says that each organization Second Helpings Atlanta delivers to is always very appreciative, making it an extremely rewarding 90 minutes each month.