We believe there’s dignity in leftovers. Our Chewse to Connect series features stories from the field, highlighting the impact your food donations have on the local community. We chatted with lead volunteer, Larry Kozlowski of Heaven’s Harvest, to hear how Chewse to Give has impacted the Austin community. 

One in 4 Austin households are food insecure. In other words, there are about 240,000 people in Austin who do not have reliable access to food to keep their hunger at bay. A 2017 report revealed that the hunger rate in the entire state of Texas actually exceeded the national average. 

Many people simply don’t have access to food – which complicates the hunger problem further. East Austinites live in a food desert, a phenomenon in which most residents live over a mile away from the nearest grocery store. Without reliable transportation physically getting to the store is a huge barrier to food access. Folks then either choose whatever is closest to them, or go hungry.

So what can be done? 

How do we make sure everyone has food to sit at the table? Food donations! Breaking down the barrier to food access is the first step to get food to our neighbors who need it. While long-term action is being taken to eradicate hunger, we can work together to deliver perfectly edible food to our Austin community.

Austin’s growing technology industry offers an incredible opportunity to create better, more efficient ways, to get food to people in need. And in a town where food is a way of life, there’s a huge opportunity to bring technology and food together. Food and technology make up more than a third of Austin’s economy. Locals are using their tech-savvy skills for good to address the very real need to break the hunger cycle in Austin.

Chewse to Give has been part of the solution since landing in Austin. Together with Copia, Chewse to Give works to deliver food to thousands of residents through organizations like Heaven’s Harvest. 

Harvest time for Heaven’s Harvest

Heaven’s Harvest, established in 1995, is an affiliate-program of the North Austin Christian Church. The service offers hot meals and pantry goods every single weekday to folks transitioning out of homelessness. Beyond food services, Heaven’s Harvest offers rehabilitation and counseling services, clothing vouchers, and free bathing services. In 2017 alone, Heaven’s Harvest donated 1.8 million pounds of food – that’s 178,000 people fed! 

Heaven’s Harvest’s mission is to build relationships with the local community and care for one another beyond one-off services. The volunteer-run organization relies on donations and partnerships like Central Texas Food Bank and Chewse to Give to keep their robust service programs going. A true testament to their mission. 

We chatted with Larry Kozlowski, lead volunteer, of Heaven’s Harvest to hear how food donations have impacted their community members.

What do you see as the most valuable aspects of Chewse to Give food donations? 

Being a non-profit, we operate solely from donations. So without food donations we simply could not do what we do: feed the hungry.

How has receiving food from Chewse and Copia benefitted your community in increasing quality of life or satisfaction?

One word – dramatically!

We had actually decided to no longer do the hot meals. The same week Chewse and Copia began in Austin, we were privileged to be one of the first partners. They literally saved the hot meals fellowship.

How has receiving meals provided a more positive outlook or life prospects of recipients? 

Absolutely, the purpose of our hot meals is to build fellowship with the community, build relationships, serve their needs. Many of the clients in our Rehab homes came in through the fellowship meals. Many of the clients of our counseling service came in through our fellowship meals. The general quality of life for the impoverished is being improved directly due to the quality and variety of food donations. 

Most recently we had an elderly woman join us for the buffet. We happened to have been blessed with salmon at that meal. She went on and on like a giddy teenager about how nice it was to have…fish. She said she rarely ate meat because she just could not afford it. She said it had been 40 years since she had eaten salmon. The look on her face as she enjoyed the gourmet cuisine was priceless!

What kinds of meal services did you offer before? How has working with Chewse and Copia improved your meal service program?

We had two meals a week usually only 1 protein choice, usually either ground beef or chicken. Our entire organization has no paid staff, we’re entirely volunteer-run. So when the person who did the cooking was no longer able to do it, we were going to shut down the meals. Having donated meals has taken the burden off of meal planning and scrambling for cheap food. The quality is impeccable, the variety amazing. We have actually used it to increase the volunteer base, too. Everyone takes turns warming up…meals. Super easy. What a blessing!

Chewse to Give has already donated thousands of pounds to Austin-based organizations like Heaven’s Harvest this year. If you’re curious to hear from our other recipient organizations, check out recipient organization Skid Row Housing Trust in Los Angeles. Want to make a bigger impact? Sign-up for Chewse hosted catering and share your meals with people in your local community!