Brewster nonprofit Second Chance Foods to hold Harvest Celebration


Image courtesy of Second Chance Foods

On Saturday, November 12, community members will gather at the Starr Ridge Banquet Center to enjoy a harvest celebration meal prepared using locally sourced food. The event serves a dual purpose: to honor and thank those volunteers who help run Second Chance Foods, a Brewster nonprofit dedicated to fighting food insecurity, and to help raise funds for the organization.

Second Chance Foods was founded in March 2016 by Alison Jolicoeur. The previous year, Jolicoeur viewed a segment of John Oliver’s show Last Week Tonight about food waste and immediately felt compelled to act. At the time, she couldn’t find anyone else in the community who was working to fight food waste so she decided to start her own organization dedicated to doing so.

“One of the parts I love best about the origin story [of Second Chance Foods] is the, ‘I’m just going to do something; I’m going to get it started’ approach,” said Martha Elder, executive director of Second Chance Foods. “You don’t have to have a big, huge 5-year strategic plan to start rescuing food and getting it to people in need. In the beginning it was one store and one soup kitchen, picking up the food and bringing it over.”

Image courtesy of Second Chance Foods

On its website, Second Chance Foods says it “elevates the health of people and the planet by recovering nutrient dense food from local sources, providing it to organizations that address hunger, in order to break the cycle of wasted food and food insecurity.” The organization primarily partners with large, local food purveyors, including Trader Joe’s in Danbury and ACE Endico in Brewster. “With limited resources we have to go where we’re going to get a lot of food,” Elder explained. “Trader Joe’s in Danbury is by far our number one food donator.” Hilltop Hanover Farm also provides a steady source of fresh produce during the growing season, along with Glynwood Farm in Cold Spring. Second Chance also sources from home growers who own private orchards, including one in North Salem.

Elder said that most of the food that Second Chance recovers is fresh produce. “That’s our real emphasis. Unfortunately, if you’re low income, the food you can most afford and that will fill your belly are heavily processed, starchy foods; not the things your body needs for good health.” The Second Chance crew sends some recovered food straight out as groceries, such as a bag of apples. Where the produce is bruised or slightly damaged they’ll repurpose in some way–such as making apple sauce using bruised apples–so that it doesn’t go to waste.

All of the rescued food gets delivered to Second Chance’s commercial kitchen on Federal Hill Road in Brewster. There, volunteers prepare, cook and pack healthy meals to be delivered to people in need. “Every week we are cooking two to four meals for 300 people,” Elder said. The next day, the meals are packed up along with groceries and volunteer drivers deliver the food to Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Carmel, as well as to private homes for those individuals without access to transportation. The organization maintains partnerships with nearly 20 local hunger relief partners, including Putnam CAP and Brewster Community Food Pantry.

Over 100 million U.S. households were food insecure in 2021, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. The problem can feel huge and overwhelming, but Elder stresses that everybody can play a role in addressing the crisis. “So many times other organizations will consult with me and so many times they don’t want to move unless they can make a thousand gallons of soup,” she said. “I’m like, just start where you are. Hunger is an immediate need.”

Second Chance Foods’ Harvest Celebration will take place Saturday, November 12 from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Starr Ridge Banquet Center in Brewster, New York. Click here to purchase tickets.

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