Second Harvest fights hunger by serving almost 58 million meals throughout Florida every year

Every day, volunteers line up at Orlando’s Second Harvest food bank to prepare meals for Central Florida residents in need. Because much of the work in the region is seasonal and pays below the national average, one in six residents are considered food insecure, meaning they don’t always know where their next meal is coming from.footnote1

Food banks like Second Harvest are part of a national battle against hunger that feeds more than 46 million Americans every year. Ending food insecurity is a critical social issue in the United States and a key priority for Bank of America. In 2004, Second Harvest was the first Central Florida Neighborhood Builders award recipient, a Bank of America program that provides $200,000 in unrestricted funding and training for two organization leaders. When individuals and families don’t have to worry about where their next meal comes from, they gain the power to improve their future.

Now, helped in part by the Neighborhood Builder’s grant, Second Harvest can sustain its mission and provide food relief for nearly half a million Florida residents annually. What follows is a look into the daily effort that Second Harvest and its volunteers undertake to feed the working poor in Central Florida.

5:00 AM: A lively kitchen starts cooking

Chef John Dizon begins the day at Second Harvest by preparing Alfredo sauce and tortellini for the Kid’s Café, a program that provides food for local schoolchildren. At one point, a young man starts spinning in the middle of the floor while Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” plays over loudspeakers. “We get rowdy,” Dizon says with a laugh. “It’s better when things are fun.”

Chef John Dizon smiling

8:30 AM: Volunteers get their assignments

Although Second Harvest has a dedicated staff, they depend on more than 34,000 volunteers to do the heavy lifting when it comes to sorting and packing the donated food and other items. Here, Daniel Lugo gives a group their assignments for the morning’s work in the distribution center.

Volunteers getting their assignments

9:00 AM: Restocking and packaging for the day’s distributions

Staff member Terrance Guerrier inspects and organizes some of the million of pounds of donations Second Harvest receives every year. Initially part of Second Harvest’s job training program, Guerrier now works at the center full time. “I like that I get to help people,” he says. “I come here every day knowing I’m part of something.” In addition to providing food assistance, Second Harvest offers on-the-job training in warehouse operations and culinary arts.

Terrance Guerrier inspects and organizes some of the donations

11:00 AM: Partner organizations begin their meal pickups

As a distribution center, Second Harvest doesn’t feed people directly–instead, the organization works with a network of food pantries and soup kitchens across Central Florida. Above, volunteers from Union Park Church of the Nazarene check their pickup lists as they walk among aisles of carefully sorted food and personal care items. Second Harvest works with more than 550 such partners in six Florida counties and distributes nearly 58 million meals annually.

Women organizing donations

12:00 PM: Getting meals ready for distribution

Shaneka Jimerson, seen above preparing meals for local schools, once lived out of a car and depended on Second Harvest for food assistance. She found a chance to get back on her feet through the culinary training program, which eventually led to an internship in a professional kitchen and back to Second Harvest for a full-time staff position. “It was a blessing,” says Jimerson of the opportunity to work at the food bank. “It came at a time when I wanted to give up.”

Shaneka Jimerson preparing meals

1:00 PM: Students learn the finer points of cooking

Israel Santiago, known as “Chef Izzy” to the students and pictured at center inspecting a gelatin mold, leads the culinary arts training program. Students who join the free 16-week program learn hands-on how to cook in and manage a professional kitchen. Santiago says the job has changed his life, “I love seeing all these people from different backgrounds working side by side making the same soup.”

Israel Santiago and students

3:00 PM: Full bellies at day’s end

A’zarrias Mccant bites into a mini pizza prepared by Chef Dizon and his volunteers, a meal provided through Second Harvest’s Kid’s Café program. 1 out of 4 kids in Central Florida are in danger of going hungry. In 2017, more than 280,000 meals were served through the program. “Seeing these kids gets me energized,” says Kid’s Café program manager Santos Maldonado. “I can go home and rest easy knowing I made a difference.”

A’zarrias Mccant bites into a mini pizza

5:00 PM: Planning for tomorrow and the years ahead

Dave Krepcho, Second Harvest’s president and CEO, notes that the Neighborhood Builders grant helped deepen Second Harvest’s impact in Central Florida and gave the organization the power to exponentially help more people through its programs. “It provided us with the opportunity to look beyond just today, or the following week, or the following month,” says Krepcho. “It let us start thinking about how we can close this hunger gap much quicker if we help strengthen our partners.”

Dave Krepcho smiling

Since 2004, Bank of America's Neighborhood Builder’s program has helped advance sustainable communities by investing more than $220 million in 49 communities – partnering with more than 1,000 nonprofits and more than 2,000 nonprofit leaders and counting.

Learn more about how the Neighborhood Builder’s program helps nonprofit partners advance economic mobility and supports skills development for nonprofit leaders, powering nonprofits like Second Harvest to build thriving communities.