The pandemic crisis has severely impacted many Silicon Valley businesses, leaving hundreds of thousands of workers jobless. In response, Hunger at Home has modified its business model, using its extensive food production experience and distribution capacity to provide meals and groceries directly to those who are newly food insecure as well as local nonprofits. Hunger at Home will showcase this massive food distribution and community effort at a press conference on May 20th.
Hunger at Home is best known for partnering with convention centers, hotels, stadiums, entertainment venues and high-end tech company cafeterias to distribute surplus food and supplies to charitable organizations to feed those in need. In response to the crisis, professional chefs and hospitality executives from such Bay Area entertainment venues as Oracle Park, Levi’s Stadium, and Chase Center are transforming tons of donated food items into delicious, healthy, balanced meals for those in need.
“It’s like Iron Chef,” says Paul Bernardt, executive chef for The Lodge at Pebble Beach. “We don’t know what’s going to be donated, so our job is to look through what we have and compose a well-balanced dish with protein, starch, and a vegetable — something that is nutritional and also tastes great.” Due to a decline in donations, Hunger at Home must purchase food to supplement its food production. Chef Bernardt and his fellow culinary crew members volunteered at Hunger at Home for years. Today, their delicious food is available directly to anyone in need.
As the COVID-19 crisis hit, Hunger at Home took over a restaurant catering facility adjacent to its distribution headquarters in San Jose. “We immediately pivoted from food distribution to production,” says Hunger at Home founder and CEO Ewell Sterner. Since March 19th, Hunger at Home has produced and distributed well over 300,000 meals. Twice a week, a line of cars, often stretching a mile long, forms at the organization’s San Jose distribution center, where families can receive meals, bags of groceries, and Shelter in Place Kits from SHIP (a local nonprofit) containing essentials such as toilet paper, paper towels, and canned goods as well as puzzles, games, and other items for kids.
The need is immense and growing, and there is no end in sight. Hunger at Home, however, offers a ray of hope, with an existing infrastructure that is only operating at a fraction of its capacity. “We’re operating at about 10 percent of what we could provide,” says Chief Operating Officer Dinari Brown. “We’re providing 3,000 to 4,000 meals a day now. With additional donations and financial support, we could easily provide 50,000 meals a day.” With shelter-in-place extended to the end of May and restaurant, hospitality, and entertainment workers not expected to return to work for months, Hunger at Home predicts the need for support will increase and stretch well into late summer and beyond.
The May 20th press conference will highlight Hunger at Home’s pivot to mass direct distribution of meals. Its team of volunteer executive chefs will discuss their unique brand of magic in converting tons of surplus food into appetizing, healthy meals. And Hunger at Home execs will explain their changing business model, its potential, and how the community can support their efforts to feed those suddenly wondering where their next meal will come from.