Spending time with the my three boys has always been the heartbeat of my existence. The sad part is that they are growing up too fast. I miss the time I used to spend with the oldest before college and the high schooler before theater. Of course, the youngest is about to cross the threshold of Tween to Teen. So, any moment I get to spend with him one on one is precious to me. Now, when I get to turn that time into a special memory? Well, that just makes the moment even sweeter. So, that is exactly what we did when we had the chance to decorate cookies together at a special event hosted by Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. The Tween and I took those few short hours together and turned them into a creative memory that will last a lifetime!
My son and I were graciously invited to dinner by Second Harvest Food Bank and to learn more about their culinary program and product lines. All opinions are 100% mine and mine alone. This post also contains affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
A Spoon Full of “Mommy Love” Event
My son and I were one of several families invited to attend a very special dinner at Second Harvest Food Bank here in Central Florida. It was a small, intimate event designed to showcase the non-profit’s thriving culinary program and brand new sustainable product line.
The evening’s schedule of activities included hearing from a representative of the food bank, as well as a graduate of the culinary program. After that, we were to be served a delicious meal, taken on a brief facility tour and cap the evening off with an edible art project.
As we found our seats, we were invited to help ourselves to something to drink. This is where my first memory of the evening was cemented. If you follow our story at all, you know that the Tween has severe food allergies, which requires very meticulous attention be paid to what he eats and drinks. Since the primary beverages were being served through a large community dispenser, there was tremendous potential for cross contamination.
RELATED POST: Our Food Allergy Story: The Bite That Sealed the Deal
However, I did notice that there were bottles of sparkling cider on the same table ~ some unopened. I asked if I could open one specifically for my son so that he could be the first to take a cup of it. The team member there simply offered me the bottle to take back to my table for the two of us to enjoy together. THAT was huge.
Our Evening’s Speakers
The Tween and I listened intently as we were introduced to the amazing mission of Second Harvest. Since our family loves to serve together, it was heartwarming to hear how much this organization helps the community and leads the effort in ensuring that everyone who needs a meal receives one.
Second Harvest Food Bank is a non-profit organization that aims to fight hunger and feed hope to the residents of Central Florida. Through the giving of various donors, they provide church organizations, community centers, children’s programs, seniors centers and more with food to serve those who may be in need for different reasons.
Once the mission was clearly defined and just prior to hearing from our second speaker, the children were called to join Chef Jill in the kitchen for a very special delivery. The Tween and I looked eye to eye to make sure he knew he was on his own and to assure me that he felt safe (and knew what to do).
The Culinary Training Program
While the children were out, the rest of us heard from a very special young woman who just happens to be a graduate of the Culinary Training Program. Through this program, Second Harvest has been able to provide hundreds of individuals the opportunity to regain their footing in life and find sustainable careers in various aspects of the culinary industry.
So, let’s chat about this Culinary Program, shall we?
The Culinary Training Program is a 16 week program that aims to provide training in the kitchen and in business with the goal of placing each student into a stable career upon graduation. It is free of cost to the student and classes are taught by dedicated chefs and instructors who teach everything from cooking and finances to stress management and conflict resolution. The students also have the opportunity to work on resume building.
To date, the program has had a 100% placement rate! Over the course of the program’s existence, they have successfully turned out approximately 250 graduates who have found jobs in places such as Rosen Hotels and Walt Disney World Resorts.
Michel’le’s dynamic and touching personal story told of a young girl raised by her grandmother who became a single mother with no support. When it seemed like she was close to the end of the line, she was offered a spot in this transformational program. However, this did not come without obstacles. It took the love and compassion of a local church community and pastor who stepped in and took care of those obstacles while Michel’le worked hard to complete the culinary program.
Michel’le is now a kitchen manager, but the dream didn’t stop there. She took herself a step further and now proudly calls herself a business owner AND a home owner. She only sees a bright future ahead.
Service with Love
As Michel’le finished her story, we watched our children march back into the room. Each was carrying a plate of food for their respective parent. On that heart-shaped plate was a heart-shaped grilled cheese sandwich and a cup of tomato basil soup ~ all made from items in the A Spoon Full of Hope product line. My heart swelled because I loved the smile that was on my son’s face as he delivered that deliciousness my way. It also warmed my heart because he knew well enough to grab himself a set of gloves before touching the plate (remember, food allergies?).
This was another great moment between the two of us. As the Tween hopes to enter a brick and mortar high school next year, we have been working very hard on incorporating safe techniques he can employ when in a situation he cannot control. My goal in life has always been to keep him alive., However, now I am expanding that focus to help him survive among the allergens, instead of always avoiding them (every food allergy scenario is different). So, to see that he took it upon himself to find gloves to wear so he could lovingly serve me some food? That made this mother’s heart feel the love.
A Spoon Full of Hope
That wasn’t the only thing we enjoyed for dinner. We all had the opportunity to fill our plates with a variety of foods from a buffet of options created with items from A Spoon Full of Hope.
A Spoon Full of Hope is the brand new product line created by the chefs within the culinary program. Each product is created with high standards of quality to meet , including the ability to be shelf-stable. There are no artificial additives and every ingredient utilized is meant to be easily pronounced.
Due to his food allergies, the Tween had a choice to either eat something at home just prior to the event or make something to take with him. He chose to eat prior to the event, knowing he would have pizza waiting for him when he returned home. However, Chef Jill wasn’t comfortable with leaving someone in the room with an empty plate. To rectify that, she went back to the kitchen to prepare something for my son. She was well aware of the guidelines and followed them meticulously. We’re talking clean utensils, new gloves, prep space free from cross contamination. Within a few minutes, she brought him out a plate of delicious fresh fruit ~ all fruits he loves to eat, tool! It was just another one of those moments that made my heart swell.
The Distribution Center
As a group, we were then given the opportunity to tour a little behind the scenes. From the delivery entrance to the pick-up point, we learned about the process, the types of goods donated and the variety of organizations that receive the products. We learned about the numerous volunteers that come in and assist with distribution and how we could help if interested.
**For volunteer information, click here: https://www.shfb.org/give-help/volunteer/
Memory Making Time!
Another “sweet” moment occurred when we all moved into another conference room for a little decorating fun. On the tables in that room, we each found a plate filled with three shortbread cookies. Next to those were a bag of frosting and some edible decorations (yum!). With those ingredients, we were all given the opportunity to decorate some shortbread cookies directly from the A Spoon Full of Hope product line.
Well, what does a child with food allergies do in a situation like this?
He grabs another set of gloves and goes to town!!! The Tween knew full well that he was not going to be able to eat his handiwork. However, he gladly decorated those goodies for his mom. (No worries ~ I promised him alternatives once we returned home).
Whether haphazardly placing candy and frosting all over those cookies or meticulously designing a masterpiece, every child in that room was having a blast. Not to mention, every mom was snapping photos left and right and taking video like there was no tomorrow. I won’t lie. It was actually tough to get my Tween to agree to photos at first. However, he eventually understood the importance of that moment for me and willingly caved into my manipulation…I mean request!
So, here’s why an organization like this is special to me…
So, I’m going to get real for just a moment. This is something I don’t share often. To be honest, our boys know very little about this part of my particular upbringing. However, this event did provide an opportunity for me to share a bit with the Tween.
I actually grew up in what many refer to as “the projects.” There’s nothing really special there. My mom was a single mom raising three rambunctious girls on little to no income. We depended upon organizations similar to Second Harvest to provide food and clothing at times. In fact, I vividly remember the days my mother would go pick up government cheese and milk downtown. I also remember being sent to the community center every weekday during the summer to pick up a free lunch.
While I wish things had been different, they weren’t. However, believe it or not, there was a positive that came out of that time. When I was a teen, my mother qualified for a program that equipped her with skills to get her back out into the work force. While my mother and I aren’t the best of friends, I can say I was proud of her for powering through. She found herself gainful employment and worked for decades after that. Her work ethic was phenomenal and she was a good example that anyone can get themselves back up and running.
So, yeah ~ this kind of stuff does hold a special place in my heart.
What This Time Meant For My Son and Me
On the way home, the Tween and I did quite a bit of talking. We laughed about our cookie creations. We talked about the food we were served. I did share a little more of the story noted above. Of course, we also talked about the importance of the mission Second Harvest has set out to accomplish.
It was truly a bonding moment for the two of us. I will forever remember my baby’s chuckles while he added all that sweetness to the cookies he made for me.
I’m really glad we went to this event together. I’m also grateful to Second Harvest for their dedication to their community. Here’s hoping they find all the help they need and succeed in their mission to fight hunger and feed hope.
How can you help?
There are a variety of ways to get involved. You can donate food, donate funds or volunteer your time. Other ways to help include becoming a partner, hosting a fundraiser, becoming an advocate or a corporate sponsor. Whether an individual, family, organization or church, there are ways you can help fight hunger and feed hope. Simply click the following link to find out what opportunities might be available to you: Help Second Harvest.
**To learn more about Second Harvest Food Bank, visit there website at: www.feedhopenow.org/
**To learn more about A Spoon Full of Hope, visit their website at: www.aspoonfullofhope.org/
NEWS FLASH CENTRAL FLORIDA!
A few A Spoon Full of Hope retail products have recently found their way on to the shelves of all six Lucky’s SuperMarkets here in Central Florida. Consumers can find the tomato basil Soup for Good and Honey for Good on the stores shelves now. The shortbread Cookies for Good can immediately be found in the new SODO and Lake Buena Vista locations. They will reach the other four stores in the very near future.
If you are not in the Central Florida location, you can still shop the A Spoon Full of Hope product line on their website. Anyone shopping online can use the code LOVEMOM and receive a 15% discount on all items in the store.
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