Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Darden Foundation Restaurant Community Grant

The growing season in Chicago is relatively short. The final frost of the last winter cannot pass soon enough for us; the first frost of the next winter comes too early. My mother in Louisiana phones to tell me of canning green beans in April and shoulder-high tomato plants in May, while I watch tiny radish and pea seedlings poke their way out of the cold mud of our raised beds.

Our final deliveries to the Vital Bridges pantry at the end of each October are sad denouements: Dickensian bits of gnarled roots and frost-withered leaves, and tiny green peppers that we cannot bear to compost. At some tacitly understood point in the month, we agree to submit to the oncoming winter.

We have always wanted a way to extend our growing season. This desire led Susan to apply to the Darden Foundation for a grant for materials and equipment to construct a system of hoophouses—insulated tunnels of wire and greenhouse plastic that would cover our raised beds and allow us to grow vegetables later into winter and start them earlier in spring. With hoophouses, we estimate that our growing season could increase by three months.

Ginkgo Organic Gardens is pleased to announce that it has received a $1,000 Restaurant Community Grant from the Darden Foundation, the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants, Inc. The Restaurant Community Grant Program is a local grants program intended to help support nonprofit organizations in the communities that Darden and its restaurant brands serve. The donation will enable Ginkgo to increase the amount of high-quality produce that it can grow and give to people suffering from poverty and illness.

Perhaps this year, or next year, with the aid of our hoophouses, Ginkgo will break through the Ton Barrier of donated produce. In any case, we look forward to the prospect of pulling a bike trailer full of carrots through the snow.

Restaurants within the Darden family – Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze and Seasons 52 – are helping to award more than $1.7 million in local grants to nearly 900 exceptional nonprofit organizations nationwide. Nonprofits receiving grants support one of Darden’s three key focus areas: access to postsecondary education, preservation of natural resources and hunger.

“Each grant is not just a check – it is an opportunity to make an impact, from providing essential supplies to food banks in Oregon, to mentoring students in Phoenix and supporting environmental education in New England,” said Drew Madsen, president and chief operating officer of Darden Restaurants, Inc. “Our service philosophy extends far beyond the walls of our restaurants. These grants bring that philosophy to life by helping to develop a better future for those we serve, one community at a time.”

More information about the Darden Foundation can be found at http://www.darden.com/commitment/community.asp.

About Darden Restaurants

Darden Restaurants, Inc., (NYSE: DRI), the world's largest full-service restaurant company, owns and operates more than 1,900 restaurants that generate over $7.5 billion in annual sales. Headquartered in Orlando, and employing 180,000 people, Darden is recognized for a culture that rewards caring for and responding to people. In 2012, Darden was named to the FORTUNE "100 Best Companies to Work For" list for the second year in a row and is the only full-service restaurant company to ever appear on the list. Our restaurant brands — Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, The Capital Grille, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52 and Eddie V's — reflect the rich diversity of those who dine with us. Our brands are built on deep insights into what our guests want. For more information, please visit www.darden.com.

The Darden Foundation

The Darden Restaurants, Inc. Foundation is the charitable arm of Darden Restaurants, Inc. The Foundation’s mission is to maintain a spirit of volunteerism and philanthropy as defining characteristics of Darden Restaurants. Since 1995, the Darden Foundation has awarded more than $60 million in grants. Total giving in fiscal year 2012 amounted to $7.8 million, 20 percent of which is represented by the Restaurant Community Grants Program. The Darden Foundation carries out its mission by focusing philanthropic efforts and resources on the following program areas: Access to Postsecondary Education, Preservation of Natural Resources and Good Neighbor Grants.