Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Red Lobster Delivers for Homeless; Restaurant Chain Donates Leftovers to Area Shelters

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Red Lobster Delivers for Homeless; Restaurant Chain Donates Leftovers to Area Shelters

Article excerpt

Byline: Beth Reese Cravey

Every day, the Red Lobster restaurant at River City Marketplace on Jacksonville's Northside projects how many baked potatoes, steaks, seafood, vegetables, soups, desserts and other food customers will consume.

Every day, some of those projections are off.

So that day's unused, but still-fresh food is cooked, packed in boxes in the freezer and saved for Circle of Love Ministries, a nearby men's shelter and residential discipleship program.

"Some days, we get steak. Some days, live Maine lobster is in there," said Debbie Crenshaw, the nonprofit's operations manager. "Those days our guys get really excited. ... It is an overwhelming blessing."

The restaurant's weekly food donation to Circle of Love is part of Darden Harvest, a 10-year-old program created by Red Lobster's parent company, Darden Restaurants Inc., which also owns Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, among others.

Rather than throw away such unused food, all 2,100-plus Darden restaurants donate it to community food pantries and other nonprofits that serve the needy in their respective communities. Other eateries such as Panera and Pizza Hut and grocery chains such as Publix and Winn-Dixie have similar initiatives to donate food.

Others should follow suit "to do your part to help feed the hungry," said Rick Sherman, Red Lobster director of operations for Northeast and Central Florida.

Nationwide 30 percent to 40 percent of the food supply is wasted every year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In 2010 an estimated 133 billion pounds of food from retail food stores, restaurants and homes went uneaten.

But to the men who live at Circle of Love, which operates on donations, the Red Lobster food means even more than being able to eat high-quality meals.

"It's knowing that other people care about them," said the nonprofit's executive director, Terry Crenshaw. …

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