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Managing Food Insecurities

Meet Brookhaven's Andrea Jaron of Second Helpings Atlanta

As the executive director of the city’s leading non-profit food rescue organization, Second Helpings Atlanta (SHA), Brookhaven resident Andrea Jaron is on a mission to drive out hunger across Metro Atlanta.

With a deep understanding of logistics and coordination, SHA staff and a team of volunteers rescue fresh, nutritious, surplus food from grocers, corporate kitchens, restaurants, and others, and deliver it to hunger relief organizations. Jaron has been instrumental in forging strategic partnerships to drive SHA’s reach even further.

In 2019, one in eight adults and one in six children in Georgia were food insecure, according to the Atlanta Community Food Bank. Those numbers have risen over the last year with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Knowing there are so many hungry people struggling with food insecurity in our community keeps me motivated,” said Jaron. “There’s a great deal of work to be done and I’m honored to be part of the solution.”

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, over 40 percent of food produced in America is never eaten. Jaron leads a network of more than 120 food donors and partner agencies to coordinate the delivery of surpluses, allowing the organization to reduce food waste and food insecurity at the same time.

Since the pandemic began, SHA has amped up its distribution, moving hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh food and now also coordinating the logistics for meal delivery throughout the metro region. The number of food requests from partner agencies has increased by 50 percent since March, and Jaron is receiving more first-time requests for food assistance.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in demand and our mission became more critical,” said Jaron. “Thanks to our dedicated staff, volunteers and partners, we were able to mobilize quickly to increase our reach and assist our communities facing food insecurity during the pandemic.”

To address the staggering need, this summer, SHA teamed up with Atlanta Community Food Bank to launch the Atlanta Community Kitchen Project, which connected hunger relief agencies to commercial kitchens with a goal to provide hundreds of thousands of meals to Atlanta families in need.

“Through this prepared meal program, we were able to fire up under-utilized commercial kitchens to feed our community while also putting food service employees back to work in an innovative way,” said Jaron. “We were incredibly fortunate to have the support from generous partners including Atlanta Rotary Club, Mercedes Benz, State Farm Arena, Bold Catering and Proof of the Pudding to make this program possible.”

SHA is uniquely skilled in the logistics of coordinating between its donors and hunger relief agencies. To that end, the organization remains a trusted partner to both non-profit and corporate organizations. This fall, SHA partnered to deliver 20,000 meals with ATLFAMILYMEAL, an initiative from restaurateur Michael Lennox supporting hospitality workers in need.

“We're proud to say these initiatives are continuing through the end of the year with existing and new partnerships, said Jaron. “There is strength in numbers.”

As demand grows, Jaron and her team remain focused on continuing to foster partnerships and secure resources that help drive their mission. This month, longtime donor organization, Whole Foods chose SHA as a recipient of its “Nourishing Our Neighborhoods” initiative that donates vans to food rescue nonprofits. The new refrigerated van will help SHA in its mission to deliver fresh food and perishables to communities experiencing food insecurity.

“We’re grateful for our continued partnership with Whole Foods,” said Jaron. “They are truly dedicated to uplifting our communities, and this van will exponentially increase our outgoing support to those in need.”

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is also helping SHA raise funds toward another delivery truck through its “Dankful IPA Program,” which tapped beneficiaries around the nation to receive funds from a $1 million pledge.

“Sierra Nevada’s commitment to community empowers us to continue to feed those in need,” said Jaron. “Partnerships like this make the work we do possible. We’re inspired by Sierra Nevada’s ongoing effort to constantly innovate and help make real change."

Jaron is no stranger to community relief – she has worked in the nonprofit sector for decades. Before Second Helpings Atlanta, she served as chief development officer of Meals on Wheels Atlanta and held development positions with the Weber School, the Anti-Defamation League, Hands-On Atlanta and more.

In her spare time, Jaron practices yoga and spends quality time with her family in their neighborhood of Brookhaven. “I love my neighborhood,” said Jaron. “Brookhaven is filled with families at various stages of life – new partners, babies, kids, teenagers, empty nesters, grandparents, great grandparents – you name it! Many friendly people and dogs around.” Jaron enjoys walking through her Ashford Park neighborhood and taking in her surroundings – from new constructions to new families, shops and restaurants. “The dining scene in Brookhaven is wonderful,” said Jaron. “We frequent all of the restaurants – currently carry-out only for us – but I love to support them. Haven and Valenza are favorites.”

Andrea’s go-to weekend activity is enjoying a wine tasting at Brookhaven Wines. During the pandemic, the local wine shop pivoted to offer virtual tastings – Andrea has one planned in December for the Second Helpings Atlanta board.

“While brainstorming safe, but engaging, social events for our board, I immediately thought of Brookhaven Wines and didn’t ask anyone else,” said Jaron. “It’s a great neighborhood spot.”

She also frequents the Brookhaven Farmers Market, held on Saturdays on Fernwood Circle off Dresden Road.

The options in Brookhaven are endless and convenient for a busy nonprofit professional like Jaron. After a long week of coordinating partners, donors and volunteers, Jaron appreciates that she can run errands close to home -- whether she’s grabbing groceries on the go at Savvy Market, dropping off items at the local dry cleaner or taking a virtual class with one of the many yoga studios in Brookhaven.

This ease of access to stores and businesses contrasts with her everyday work in food insecurity in Metro Atlanta, and it’s her main driver of why she does what she does.

“Community is central to Second Helpings Atlanta’s mission,” said Jaron. “I'm grateful to live in my neighborhood, and I will continue to work until everyone has access to a welcoming, resourceful and food-secure community.”

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