In spite of poor weather, close to 100 people gathered at the Second Harvest building on East President Street last week to celebrate the groundbreaking of a new 5,700 square foot building, which will allow Second Harvest to more than double the serving capacity for its Kids Cafe program, and improve its culinary certification courses. The organization currently provides about 2,500 hot meals per day to children in the area from food insecure households.
“Most people can’t fathom a child in Savannah, Georgia, going hungry,” says Mary Jane Crouch, Second Harvest’s Executive Director. “They think it’s only a problem in third world countries, but it happens right here more than we want to admit.”
As many as one in six children in Georgia are at risk of going hungry at some point each month, according to data from the Children’s Defense Fund.
Previously, Second Harvest’s Community Kitchen, which prepares food for the Kids Cafe program, was housed in a space on loan from the Savannah–Chatham School System. When the school gave notice that it would need the space back, Second Harvest’s board decided that the best way to further the organization’s work would be to build a dedicated space adjacent to their food bank and warehouse, effectively consolidating all of their programs.
“It’s better for us to have it here on our campus,” Crouch explains. Not only will it save us time and fuel, getting food back and forth to the kitchen, it’s kind of nice to have it all together and be able to coordinate what’s going on.”
Second Harvest has a lot going onwhen it comes to fighting hunger. In addition to their food bank and grocery assistance program for seniors, The Community Kitchen and Kids Caf programs serve an area that stretches to include 21 counties, from Candler south to Charlton and from Chatham west to Jeff Davis.
“Hunger in the United States is a major issue, and with Georgia children, it is really a major issue,” Crouch explains. “We’re trying to be there to make sure that no children go to bed with an empty tummy.”
The Kids Cafes have served over 400,000 meals this year, but that is only a fraction of the total demand.
An estimated 21,000 children are at risk for hunger in Chatham County alone, and approximately 74,000 in Second Harvest’s total service area.
To borrow from the old parable, the Community Kitchen program is doing more than giving someone a fish. It’s taking a multi–faceted approach to attacking the problems of hunger and poverty, helping children receive a hot, nutritious meal and helping educate at–risk adults by providing them with marketable job skills in the culinary arts as well as assistance completing GED courses.
This year, the program has graduated over 50 students who are now better qualified to enter the workforce and strive for economic self–sufficiency.
In addition to the daily services provided by the kitchen, it will also provide a capability Crouch and others hope they never have to use. In case of large scale natural disaster, the kitchen has the capacity to provide up to 10,000 meals per day for critical workforce returning to the area to help rebuild.
Although construction has already begun on the new building, which is scheduled to be completed by March, for Crouch and Second Harvest, the ground breaking was still important, not just as a ceremonial event, but as an opportunity to reach out to the community.
“A lot of places do a ground breaking to let you know that they have a new building,” says Crouch. “But ours, hopefully, is to educate the community more about us as a resource. We’re here to help.”
For more information on the Second Harvest programs and services, visit www.helpendhunger.org