By Kate Santich Orlando Sentinel
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The revenue from the new line of "A Spoon Full of Hope" products will support Second Harvest's free culinary training program for financially struggling residents.
Second Harvest Food Bank is rolling out its own signature product line, including a chef-created tomato-basil Soup For Good, organic Honey For Good and shortbread Cookies for Good, with all proceeds going back to charity.
The initiative, dubbed A Spoon Full of Hope, is eventually expected to include hot sauces, rib rubs and salad dressings, each created by chefs at Second Harvest, which has its own commercial kitchen.
Modeled after the highly successful Newman's Own food products launched by actor Paul Newman, which has given $500 million to charity in its 35 years, A Spoon Full of Hope is believed to be the first in the national Feeding America network of food banks to sell retail foods to raise money.
Already, the local charity has a successful Catering for Good business run out of its kitchen, which opened five years ago and is headed by its own chef.
"When we first moved into this building, that was kind of the joke, 'Oh, maybe we can create something like Newman's Own,' " said Greg Higgerson, Second Harvest's vice president of development. "But we kept throwing around the idea. ... We feel this is another way, another opportunity, that people can help to support a good cause, and this way you also get something back."
The revenue from A Spoon Full of Hope products, including a healthy boxed lunch, various gift sets and customized cookies that can be ordered online, will support Second Harvest's free culinary training program for financially struggling residents.
The program has graduated 250 students since it began in 2013, all of whom have since landed jobs in the industry, many at better than minimum wage. But at $350,000 to $400,000 a year, the training operation is not inexpensive to run.
Second Harvest estimates that A Spoon Full of Hope will generate $120,000 in revenue the first year.
"We have a ways to go," said Nancy Brumbaugh, food service director for Second Harvest. "But that's why we're hoping to get into some retail locations with our products."
The charity has been in discussions with a couple of grocery chains, though it is still waiting on a commitment to sell the products. But the goods will be available online, at aspoonfullofhope.org, and through November at 4 Rivers Smokehouse locations in Central Florida.
"I'm just using our platform to help support their success," said John Rivers, founder of the restaurant chain, which has 13 locations in Florida and one in Atlanta. "It's simply helping an amazing organization like Second Harvest that shares the same passion and purpose as our foundation."
Brumbaugh said the products are priced competitively with other foods that are made with fresh, local ingredients, $4.99 for a 16-ounce jar of the tomato-basil soup, for instance, or $4.59 and up for the organic honey. Both won taste tests among volunteers and the Second Harvest board of directors.
But if there's a challenge, Brumbaugh said, it may be in educating consumers that the signature foods are not made from food-drive donations or surplus goods.
"I think that's the hardest stigma to get around," she said. "But everything in our kitchen is sourced from a local, reputable vendor. And no donated product is ever used in our programs."
The honey, for instance, comes from apiaries in Orange and Brevard counties and will be packaged in-house by culinary students and volunteers. Central Florida orders through the website will be fulfilled by local couriers, who already deliver meals for Second Harvest, allowing the charity to avoid Styrofoam and other environmentally unfriendly packaging.
Orders from outside Central Florida will be fulfilled through UPS.
Rob Panepinto, CEO of Entrepreneurs in Action, which coaches and invests in social enterprises, said the concept is a smart one.
"Consumers are paying more attention to this premise, if they can buy a product they like and it goes to support a cause they like, they're likely to do so," he said. "Second Harvest already has a positive brand, and they've already been very successful with their Catering For Good program. So I think they'll get a fair shot."
For chef Jill Holland, who leads the Catering for Good program, it's all a bit surreal. She led the development of the tomato-basil soup, tinkering with various ingredients over four years to make sure the product is shelf-stable and reproducible in mass quantities.
"I am not a celebrity chef. I am not famous," Holland said. "So to walk into a store and be like, 'That's my soup!', that will be pretty cool."
*Kyle Arnold contributed to this report.