On Thursday, September 20, 2018, representatives from the Junior League of Birmingham (JLB) gathered with Alice Westery, Youth Towers Executive Director, and board members in Downtown Birmingham to unveil the JLB’s second community refrigerator, an expansion of the JLB Second Servings food recovery program. Youth Towers is a 501 (c) (3) organization that helps young adults (aged 19–26) find affordable housing, gain employment and education, and receive counseling and training so they may lead successful, productive lives.
JLB Second Servings began as a pilot program in 2016 with a refrigerator installed at Project Hope, a day shelter for homeless teens. The concept was initiated by League member Tarika Bhuta, who saw an opportunity to address the critical issue of hunger with an abundance of leftover food. Members of the JLB Second Servings committee are always on call to pick up food leftover from catered meetings, parties and restaurants that would otherwise be discarded. Committee members then deliver the food to the refrigerators, providing access to meals to those in need.
“We are thrilled to open our second community refrigerator,” said JLB President Elizabeth Burgess. “Youth Towers was a natural fit, as it expands on our current partnership with Project Hope. We are trying to increase our funding for the JLB Second Servings program so we can provide services to more people in the community. Our hope is to have refrigerators all over the community being filled with rescued food.”
During the 2017.2018 League year, JLB Second Servings volunteers rescued over one ton of food. A second location allows more food to be rescued and the potential to reach an additional population, said JLB Second Servings Chair Kara Weiland.
“Since June 1, we have already saved over 1,000 pounds of food. It is estimated that 40 percent of food in America gets thrown into landfills every year. Our mission is to bring awareness and encourage members of the community to share surplus food with those who are hungry.”
“Youth Towers is a continuum of care that works with young people between the ages of 19-26, who have aged out of foster care or are leaving the family home,” said Youth Towers Executive Director and Founder Alice Westery. “They’re too old for one set of services, too young for another. Youth Towers is here to keep them from slipping through the cracks.”
Westery was inspired to begin the program while working at the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources. She routinely witnessed young people who were no longer able to receive services, but still in need of help.
“We are so pleased the Junior League of Birmingham chose to install a community refrigerator at Youth Towers. Young people know they can call us any time of day or night and we are ready to help them with emergency housing and anything they need. We are so grateful to now have a ready source of meals we can offer to those who need them.”
“I know I can call Ms. Westery any time for any help I need,” said Nick, who received services at Youth Towers and now serves on staff. “Some places you go and they only want to help you when it’s the right time or because it’s their job. Other people do it because their heart is in it. Ms. Westery is one of those and Youth Towers has been a special place for me.”
Anyone in the community may donate leftover food prepared in a commercial kitchen with servings to feed 15 or more to the JLB Second Servings program. For more information, please visit jlbonline.com/secondservings or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by June Mee Clark