Produced by Nichole Capizzi
By: Nichole Capizzi
The Darden family of restaurants features some of the most recognizable and popular brands in full-service dining including Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille, Eddie V’s and Yard House. The Company owns and operates more than 1,500 restaurants and employs more than 150,000 people nationwide, serving more than 320 million meals a year.
In acknowledging that food waste in the food service industry is one of biggest contributors of food waste in America, Darden made the executive decision to launch the Darden Harvest Program in 2003. As the largest prepared-foods donation program running yearlong, the Darden Harvest Program is serving its own solution to food waste.
Every Darden-owned restaurant participates in the program, where employees cook unserved, surplus food and prepare it for donation to local food banks, shelters and other charitable organizations. In 2013 alone, Darden restaurants donated more than 11 million pounds of wholesome and ready-to-eat food, such as vegetables and proteins, much of which is in short supply for the people these organizations support. That’s enough to feed 3,250 families of four, three meals a day for an entire year.
To date, the program has donated more than 62 million pounds of surplus food to families in need since its inception. Darden donates a wide variety of foods for a well-balanced diet: 28% vegetables, 27% protein, 19% soup, 18% pastas/bread, other 7% and desserts 1%.
The Darden Harvest Program allows Darden to leverage its national scale and processes to safely provide prepared food to local nonprofit charities helping people in need. The program positions Darden one step closer to its an ambitious waste reduction goal to one day send zero waste to landfill.
Seasons 52 in King of Prussia, PA participates in the Harvest Program and currently donates to Carelink in Norristown. Before that, Seasons donated to Step by Step Inc. and CadCom Fatherhood Initiative.