Guest Column by Alli Allen

As we joyfully celebrate Rosh Hashanah, hopes are high that the Jewish new year will be a good one.

We dip apples in honey as we pray for sweetness and replenishment. Our round challahs symbolize the circle of life and renewal, and with the sound of the shofar, we are called to begin the process of introspection and repentance.

Alli Allen

Alli Allen

As we examine our lives the past year and look ahead to 5777, we ponder how we could have done better. What improvements can we make going forward?

As we look inward, we also must look outward. How have our lives affected the lives of others? Have we been there for those in need? Have we responded to the call to repair the world?

The tree of life is often bountiful, but sometimes it fails to bear enough fruit for everyone to partake. As we join together at our Rosh Hashanah dinner tables, let us not forget those who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Those who don’t have access to fresh, nutritious food. Those who don’t have the means to feed their families. Those who depend on their school lunch to last them throughout the day.

Through community action, social change is possible. Second Helpings Atlanta, a nonprofit food rescue organization, has proved that working together toward a common goal can produce a community of change in the lives of people who are food-insecure in metro Atlanta.

Twelve years ago during High Holiday services at Temple Sinai, we issued a clarion call for our congregants to unite and take a stand against hunger. What started as a grassroots project open to congregants of all ages quickly morphed into a legion of volunteers committed to rescuing excess food and delivering it to the people seeking assistance in our community.

As our numbers grew, so did the need for the food we rescued. Today, SHA is a thriving, efficient, caring and volunteer-driven organization. We are neighbors helping neighbors. We are making a meaningful difference every day.

Our 400-plus volunteer drivers devote just 90 minutes each month to a rescue-and-delivery route, picking up leftover food from one of our 60 food donors (corporate good citizens such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Publix, The Fresh Market, Sprouts and Cox Enterprises) and delivering it to one of our 31 partner agencies (Community Assistance Center, Malachi’s Storehouse, Atlanta Mission, Jewish Family & Career Services’ Kosher Food Pantry, Toco Hills Community Alliance, Genesis Shelter, etc.).

In May we marked a tremendous milestone: We rescued our 5 millionth pound of food. With monthly collections averaging over 100,000 pounds, we are providing meals for over 3,000 people per day.

We recently introduced our Food for Thought Program. Through this initiative, we are partnering with schools throughout metro Atlanta to educate, inspire and engage students, parents, teachers and school administrators about hunger, food waste and environmental impacts.

This program provides opportunities for schools to adopt a route, picking up food from their cafeterias and delivering it to our partner agencies.

We also have a new Corporate Kitchen Food Rescue Program, in which we work with corporate kitchens to rescue nutritious food from their dining halls and deliver it to those in need.

On Nov. 12, our first Taste of the Trucks festival is taking place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the Concourse Office Park. This exciting, family-friendly event with 15 food trucks, a craft show, live music and fun activities will raise funds to support our mission of driving out hunger and reducing food waste in metro Atlanta.

If you’re committed to tikkun olam (repairing the world) and want to work in your own community, please consider joining our dedicated army of SHA volunteers. We can assure you a fulfilling experience.

L’dor vador, from generation to generation, are words we will hear throughout the High Holidays. As we think about the future and set examples for our children to follow, let’s remember that often the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Here’s hoping our Rosh Hashanah apples of committing to positive change are fruitful and multiply.

Alli Allen is co-founder of Second Helpings Atlanta.