Longhorn 'harvests' food for those in need

by Clay Neely / clay@newnan.com


Longhorn employee Greg Godwin helps load the weekly 'harvest' into the van for Shannon Arnold for the Newnan Housing Authority.

Longhorn Steakhouse’s parent company, Darden Restaurants, Inc., created the Darden Harvest program ten years ago as way to help feed the hungry in the communities in which they operate.

Here in Newnan, the local Longhorn will “harvest” surplus, wholesome food that wasn’t served in its restaurant and donate it to the Newnan Housing Authority. Items such as fresh fish and other meats, soups and bread are donated. These items are never leftovers — just unused, fresh food.

Rebeka Prater, managing partner for the Longhorn Steakhouse in Newnan, provided a glimpse of their “harvest” operation.

She explained that every Darden restaurant is strongly encouraged to participate in the harvest program and that the goal of the Longhorn Steakhouse in Newnan is between 50 to 100 pounds of food a week.

“The food has to not only be safe but it has to be quality as well. For instance, if you’re trimming off meat, it has to be 70 percent lean. Anything and everything that we don’t have a use for but is completely safe is good to go.”

All employees are trained how to prepare the “harvest” surplus. Prater walked through the preparation of the food for the harvest.

Fresh meats, chicken, fish and breads are cooked, cooled, labeled and logged then stocked in the cooler until the weekly pickup. If the designated amount of daily specials aren’t ordered, they will cook them regardless and then store them as well.

She makes it clear that all the food that is used in the harvest is made explicitly for that purpose.

“Once any food is served at the table, it goes directly in the trash. Leftovers have nothing to do with the food we prepare,” reiterated Prater.

Glynis Tanner from the Newnan Housing Authority comes by to pick up the harvest each week.

Prater emphasizes the company’s involvement within the local community. They don’t participate in one-off “volunteer days,” as they stay involved on a permanent basis.

“Even outside the ‘harvest,’ we typically will donate to most anyone who needs food in the community” said Prater. “Food is incredibly valuable.”

To date, the Darden Harvest program has donated more than 2 million pounds of food to the Atlanta area since 2003 and 67 million pounds to various food banks across the country.

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