BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - The Bakersfield Olive Garden restaurant is partnering with The Mission At Kern County non-profit to help feed those in need.
The Now Bakersfield's Tori Cooper spoke with the restaurant and the non-profit to better understand the mission and the impact it's having on the community Tuesday.
Every week the Bakersfield Olive Garden location donates a portion of its food to parts of the community that need it most, instead of just throwing it away they are choosing to try to change lives one meal at a time. "My name is Eric Bentley I came to The Mission three years ago as a resident I came straight out of jail I had a son and I wanted to end the way that I was living," Bentley said.
Bentley was deep in the gang life in Kern County, and spent time in jail for a string of burglaries before he chose to turn his life around, "The first thing that happened was I went and got a meal at the mission, they served it with a smile and receive that from someone, something that little, means so much to someone in the situation I was in," Bentley said.
The Mission at Kern County is a non-profit organization that provides over 500 meals a day to those in need in the Kern County community. Each month The Mission serves more than 15,000 meals and averages 200,000 meals every year.
Part of what makes this possible for people like Bentley, is when others also step in to help.
Since 2005 the Bakersfield Olive Garden location donated over 27,000 pounds of food to the Kern County community and nationwide it has donated over 40,000,000 pounds of food.
"Olive Garden has our Harvest Food Donation, it's a program where all Olive Gardens across the United States donate their surplus food to local food banks in the community," Olive Garden General Manager Bridget Parks said.
The donated food is also collected daily according to Parks, "To go orders that were canceled or not picked up, excess food that was made, extra food that we have from the day we donate that. We chill it, we freeze it, we use all of our food safety standards that we practice here in the restaurant."
The Olive Garden team and Bentley both put their hands together to help ensure meals to those battling hunger and Bentley said other companies are also joining in on to the food train donation, "There's Olive Garden, there's Lassens , there's Vons, there's Hodel’s is also a big one we pick up from Hodel’s everyday."
Bentley just named a few that are helping make his food delivery job with The Mission at Kern County even more worthwhile, now that he can give back to those who are in the same position he was in before the non-profit stepped in for him too, "I know where the food is going, it changes lives," Bentley said.
"This food on a scale from one to ten is eleven because it's made with love," one man eating at The Mission at Kern County told The Now.
Bentley said that because of his gang related background and criminal history many organizations didn't give him a chance. He said his life didn’t ultimately get back on track until he found The Mission at Kern County.
As for Bakersfield Olive Garden it will continue the Harvest Food Donation program every week to support those in need.