For many people, a wholesome, hot meal is something that isn’t always guaranteed, but Savannah’s LongHorn Steakhouse and its parent company Darden Restaurants are helping to change that with their Harvest program.
All of Darden’s restaurants across the country participate in some sort of food donation program. The LongHorn Harvest program began in 2003, and the restaurants have donated more than 17 million pounds of food to communities across the country.
“It’s ingrained in our culture at Darden… It’s a great process,” said Kenneth Johnson, culinary manager at the Savannah LongHorn location at 7825 Abercorn St.
“But it’s not just Longhorn, we have a lot of companies under our umbrella, and it helps us have less hungry people.”
The restaurant is currently partnering with Inner City Night Shelter to provide fresh surplus food weekly, which includes to-go orders that don’t get picked up, a piece of meat that is cut too small and various fresh vegetables.
According to Yvonne Pryor, executive director of Inner City Night Shelter, the organization has been receiving donations from Longhorn as well as other restaurants including Pizza Hut and Red Lobster for more than five years.
The shelter provides an evening meal every day of the year and community partners provide breakfast every Saturday morning.
“We all benefit from the donations when food we didn’t pay for provides a meal several times in the week. That is money we did not spend, and it adds to the bottom line of our budget,” Pryor said.
“Meals are provided for homeless and low-income men, women and children. All that are in need are welcome to come.”
Mary Jane Crouch, executive director of America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia, said they often work with restaurants to make sure donations get to their partner nonprofits, including Inner City Night Shelter.
“Instead of throwing it away, you can help a lot of people. In Coastal Georgia, there are over 150,000 people that live below the poverty level. … This type of (restaurant) food, which is more for congregant feeding, is needed by the shelters, those places that need to feed people each and every day,” she said.
“They also get a tax write-off for doing it, so it’s a great opportunity for them to leverage some of their business dollars to get a tax write-off for it, but more importantly they’re helping their own community.”
The Savannah LongHorn location continues to make its mark on the local community and has donated more than 72,900 pounds of food, which equals about 60,750 meals since the program began. Coupled with other nearby Longhorn locations, that number goes up to about 139,000 pounds of food.
“I believe that it’s a great process and, if other restaurants did the same thing, then we could have a lot less hungry people,” Johnson said.
“It’s not hurting us by feeding the people that need it.”