Every Monday afternoon around one, a Second Servings of Houston delivery truck pulls up to the curb outside Cullen Residence Hall on The Center’s West Dallas Campus. Staff members from The Center’s kitchen roll up carts and load them with Antones Po’ Boys sandwiches—about 300 of them each week.
The Po’ Boys are a hit. Since deliveries began in early 2017, they have been eagerly anticipated by many clients who eat their lunches or dinners at The Center each day. At The Center, these fresh, gourmet sandwiches can provide the bulk of two full meals for our clients, but they could just as easily have ended up in the garbage.
Seeing this kind of food waste while Houston citizens and organizations went without is what prompted Second Servings founder Barbara Bronstein to start the operation in 2014. At the time, “food rescue” operations that matched excess prepared food from manufacturers and dining establishments with recipients in need were popping up all over the country, but it wasn’t happening in Houston. In a city where food insecurity is above the national rate, Bronstein knew she had to take action.
Today, Second Servings delivers to 39 charities in the Houston area, including The Center. They partner with hotels, restaurants, sports arenas, and other businesses from all over the city that are eager to use their abundance to help the community.
More than Just Reducing Waste
Aside from reducing food waste, Second Servings fills a dietary niche that often goes unaddressed. Fresh foods provide important nutrients for The Center’s clients, but are also some of the most expensive items in our food budget.
“We focus on fresh, upscale, chef-prepared food,” says Bronstein, stressing the quality of the product they distribute.
Po’ Boys are not the only thing Second Servings delivers to The Center; recent deliveries have included fresh fruit and vegetables, pistachio-encrusted chicken, barbeque, and more, all from local providers.
The staff at Second Servings is especially cognizant of the impact of its services from a budgetary standpoint. Their delivery is always free, and part of their goal is to save the organizations they serve at least 10% of their food budget.
“Food expense is one of our largest expenses,” Kevin Kern, The Center’s Chief Operating Officer, told KHOU earlier this year. “If we can have any amount of assistance with that, certainly Second Servings has done that for us.”
A New Opportunity
The Center’s partnership with Second Servings contributes to our focus on increasing opportunities for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities to participate in their community. Last summer, Bronstein approached The Center CEO, Jerry Wische, with the opportunity for clients to come along on deliveries as volunteer delivery assistants.
Each Monday, a group of clients, accompanied by trained staff, travels to Slow Dough Bread Co. to assist with the delivery of fresh bread to The Center. In their gloves, vests, and aprons, these individuals pack up leftover artisan bread, load it into the truck, and assist in bringing it back to The Center’s kitchen to be served.
While this initiative is still in its infancy, it has been a welcome accompaniment to the list of opportunities for community engagement. Alongside field trips to some of Houston’s many cultural events, work initiatives like our new Supported Employment program, and other volunteer opportunities, it has helped not only to build experience but to foster in our clients a sense of belonging and the pride of knowing they have made a difference.