Houston Food Charities to Support on Giving Tuesday

As you give thanks and break bread with friends and family, shop for gift-giving deals and prepare to celebrate the holidays, don’t forget the over 738,000 Houstonians (and many more across the area and state) who lack access to affordable, healthy food. This Giving Tuesday, November 29, or anytime between now and the end of year, please consider giving to one or more of these local nonprofits that are employing innovative solutions to feed and help our fellow Houstonians.

Brighter Bites: Founded in 2012 by Lisa Helfman, a lawyer who is currently director of public affairs for H-E-B’s Houston region, and Dr. Shreela Sharma, professor of epidemiology at UTHealth School of Public Health, this data-driven nonprofit delivers fresh produce directly to food-insecure families via schools. During the 2021-2022 school year, the organization provided fruits and vegetables to over 28,000 people in 141 schools. Each participating family regularly receives 20 to 25 pounds of produce along with recipes, cooking tips, nutritional support and more. Go online to support its mission.

Volunteers and staff prepare meals at the Houston Food Bank.
Volunteers and staff prepare meals at the Houston Food Bank. Photo by David Leftwich.

Houston Food Bank: From a 308,000-square-foot facility designed to warehouse thousands of pounds of food and assist large and small groups of volunteers in prepping, sorting and boxing that food, the Houston Food Bank is providing sustenance to those in the area who “lack consistent access to enough nutritious food to fuel a healthy life.” Unfortunately, that’s about 1 million people in 18 area counties, and they need at least 800,000 to a million pounds of food a day. Over the course of a year, that equals approximately 150 million meals. To help the Houston Food Bank in this important and monumental task, you can donate online. Every $1 you give equals three meals for area families in need.

Group shot of the women hosting and taking part in the fundraiser.
Members of I’ll Have What She’s Having include back row, left to right: Barbara McKnight (Culinaire), Lynette Hawkins (Giacomo’s), Anita Jaisinghani (Pondicheri), Tracy Vaught (H Town Restaurant Group), Claire Smith (Alice Blue, Canopy), Janice Schindeler, (Words & Food) and Lisa Seger (Blue Heron Farm). Front row, left to right: Mimi Del Grande (Schiller Del Grande), Erin Smith (Feges BBQ), Monica Pope, Jamie Zelko (The Ivy & James) and Lindsey Schechter (Houston Dairymaids). Photo by Julie Soefer.

I’ll Have What She’s Having: Led by women in the health and hospitality professions, this nonprofit, which was founded in 2017, focuses on improving health and mental health care for those in the hospitality industry. This includes providing preventative services such as gender-appropriate annual check-ups, mammograms, contraception, vaccines and mental health counseling. To support their efforts, donate online and follow them on social media to learn about upcoming fundraising events.

Kids’ Meals: Since 2006, Kids’ Meals has been delivering healthy meals directly to the families of food-insecure children five and under — there are an estimated 50,000 in Greater Houston. In 2021, this focused nonprofit distributed over 1.74 million meals and 673,384 pounds of fresh produce to the families of 3,876 preschoolers. An incredible feat, yet there are many more children that need assistance. You can help them by donating online.

Chef Chris Williams
Chris Williams, executive chef of Lucille’s and founder of Lucille’s 1913. Photo by David Wright.

Lucille’s 1913: During the pandemic, chef Chris Williams, a James Beard Award finalist and owner of Lucille’s, began preparing meals for frontline workers. Through that work, he teamed up with José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen to feed the often-neglected elderly in Houston. Those efforts evolved into the nonprofit Lucille’s 1913, which currently provides almost 700 meals a day to underserved people in Acres Homes, Sunnyside, Fifth Ward and Third Ward, as well as daily meals to students at the Imani School. The organization is also developing a comprehensive approach that will include sustainable local farming and gardening, neighborhood markets and more. To help support this ambitious project, you can donate online.

Meals on Wheels for Greater Houston and Galveston County: Operated by Interfaith Ministries of Greater Houston, this organization delivers meals, including weekend meals and breakfast, to over 7,300 “homebound seniors and adults with disabilities.” In addition, after learning that many of its clients shared their food with pets, the nonprofit launched Animeals, which not only provides food for their four-legged friends but also helps arrange veterinary care. To help, you can donate online.

Plant It Forward: Since 2011, Plant It Forward has been working with West African refugees to cultivate a meaningful living in Houston by helping them establish sustainable and profitable farms. Together, they have created Houston’s largest network of urban farms, and their fresh, local produce can be found at farmers markets and restaurants all around Houston. To support this wonderful mission, you can donate online and/or sign up for a farm share or give one as a gift.

PX Project in the kitchen
PX Project in the kitchen, Left to right: PX Project Alum Arsel Kisanga; brothers, PX Project participants, and Afghan refugees Mahdi and Hassan; chef Adam Garcia. Photo by David Leftwich.

PX Project: Headed by founder and executive director, Meredith Davis, and executive chef and director of operations, Adam Garcia (formerly of Coltivare and Rosie Cannonball), this workforce development program uses the commercial kitchen to help underserved people between 18 and 25 develop life and professional skills. Every 18 weeks, a small cohort — many of them immigrants and refugees living in Gulfton and Sharpstown — learn the ins and outs of prepping, cooking and selling food, from knife skills to customer service. The end goal is being prepared to find employment in a field of their choice, not just in hospitality. In 2023, the group is planning to open a café that will provide both training and employment opportunities to program participants, with a full-service restaurant to follow.  To help this innovative program, donate online.

Fresh produce from Recipe For Sucess's Hope Farms.
Fresh produce from Recipe For Success’s Hope Farms. Courtesy photo.

Recipe For Success: For 17 years, this classroom-focused nonprofit has focused on reducing childhood obesity by teaching primarily elementary-school students where food comes from and how to cook healthy, vegetable-focused meals. The program has expanded to include nationwide affiliate programs, a 7-acre farm, the annual VegOut! Challenge and more. You can support this pioneering program by donating online.

Second Servings of Houston: According to this groundbreaking nonprofit, launched by Barbara Bronstein in 2015, 40% of food in Houston goes to waste, while 17% of people in the area are food insecure. (The percentage of children is even higher.) Its innovative approach to solving these two problems: rescue prepared and perishable foods from restaurants, catering companies, grocery stores, farmers markets and other businesses, and distribute it the same day to those in need via shelters, soup kitchens, low-income housing facilities and more. To date, Second Servings has saved over 8,000,000 pounds of food valued at approximately $58,000,000 and feeds an estimated 175,000 people a year. To help rescue even more food, donate online. Every $1 they spend equals $50 of food for those who need it.

Southern Smoke check 2017
Southern Smoke Foundation has raised millions of dollars to help hospitality workers since 2017. Photo by Catchlight Photography.

Southern Smoke: After his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd organized the first Southern Smoke festival in 2015 to raise money for the MS Society. In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, the nonprofit pivoted to helping food and beverage professionals affected by the devastating storm. As the pandemic ravaged the hospitality industry, Southern Smoke intensified its efforts to help industry folk, and in 2021 it distributed $3,400,886 to food and beverage professionals in need. In addition, the group provides mental health resources to those in hospitality. To help those who so often help us, donate online.

Target Hunger: Founded in 1989, this organization focuses on delivering food directly to the food insecure in northeast and east Houston, including 500 seniors, while also addressing the root causes of the problem by helping people navigate government, private and nonprofit resources in the community; managing two community gardens and more. To enable them to further help the 17,000 who received the nonprofit’s assistance in 2021, you can donate online.

Fresh produce at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market
Fresh produce at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market. Photo by Sandra Crittenden.

Urban Harvest: Since 1994, this comprehensive nonprofit has been cultivating Houston’s access to healthy, local food by providing over 5,100 school students hands-on gardening and nutrition education, supporting over 140 community gardens and 1900 community gardeners, managing Houston’s largest farmers market and a network of mobile markets that support over 40 farms and ranches and 60 plus small food producers, providing classes on organic gardening and permaculture to over 1,000 area gardeners, and more. To support Urban Harvest’s mission, donate online.

Houston Food Charities to Support on Giving Tuesday