• Candice Smith

Second Chance Foods Teaches Vets How to Cook


You can’t beat a cooking class followed by a delicious dinner and great conversation! This is what is served up monthly to a group of Putnam County Veterans. Second Chance Foods, a Hudson Valley nonprofit, is helping teach veterans how to cook.

Second Chance Foods rescues produce from local farms, restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Hudson Valley that can no longer be sold. The food is then distributed to communities that need it the most.

There are 11 veterans currently living at the Senator Vincent Leibell Putnam County Veterans Residence in Carmel. Some of the veterans were previously homeless or on the verge of being homeless. “Cooking a meal with veterans provides something one can't put a price on,” said Martha Elder, Executive Director of Second Chance Foods.

Volunteers bring locally-grown foods ready to be turned into a meal to veterans one Tuesday evening per month. The veterans chop vegetables, cook soup and create their own foil-packet meals with the guidance of Second Chance Foods’ volunteers.

The evenings that I visited, Martha helped the veterans create a scrumptious chicken casserole. Potatoes were peeled and chopped then placed on the bottom of a large roasting pan. Chicken breasts which had been marinating in buttermilk and spices were then layered on top of the potatoes. One veteran trimmed asparagus spears as another veteran heated up the vegetable soup Martha had prepared in advance. Ice cream was the perfect way to complete this comfort food menu. All of the veterans had stories to share, and there was lively conversation throughout the dinner. The meal we cooked the night I visited was totally donated by Trader Joe’s in Danbury.

Second Chance Foods is a farm to food pantry whose mission is Rescuing Food, Reducing Hunger and Raising Awareness by elevating the health of both people and the planet through food rescue. The 501 (c)3 nonprofit is dedicated to rescuing unsold, un-served, and aesthetically imperfect food and distributing it in an effort to reduce food waste and food insecurity. Food is collected from farms, grocery stores, restaurants and other purveyors in the Hudson Valley Region and distributed directly to community outreach organizations that provide meals to people who need food the most. They also provide programs to raise awareness about food waste, nutrition and sustainability on a local and global level. “Forty percent of the food in the US ends up in the garbage,” explained Elder.

*Second Chance Foods is a Health Organization: 90% of the rescued food is fresh produce which enables good nutrition thereby preventing diet related illnesses.

*Second Chance Foods is a Skills Development Program: Trains interns with disabilities from ARC on commercial kitchen procedures and food deliveries.

*Second Chance Foods is a Youth Volunteer Champion: Welcomes youth to learn more about food waste and food insecurity and how to make a difference in their community.

*Second Chance Foods is an Environmental Organization: Recovering food that would have been wasted helps reduce pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer use.

Second Chance Food is always looking for donations and volunteers: Secondchancefoods.org.

PO Box 93, Carmel, NY 10512.

914-261-0797