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A Remarkable Tomato Partnership

Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee recognizes Sysco and FreshPoint as a Harvester of Hope Vision Partner. 

The partnership between Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and Sysco/FreshPoint goes back almost 26 years with consistent gifts of food and funds that have impacted thousands of food insecure individuals in Middle and West Tennessee.

In 2015, this partnership significantly evolved when representatives from Sysco and FreshPoint approached Second Harvest with the offer of up to 10,000 pounds a week of otherwise high-quality tomatoes that fail commercial standards of size, shape, or appearance. (Editor’s note: the tomato donation is an ongoing year-round program, and local TN/NC/KY tomatoes are used during their growing season.)

The result of this tomato donation and the financial support to purchase the additional equipment needed for the tomato project:

We began processing 6,000 pounds of tomatoes per week into high-quality spaghetti sauce that agencies use across Middle Tennessee to feed hungry people.

Following 20+ years of outsourcing the production of shelf-stable food in metal cans, Second Harvest opened a new chapter in food preservation with an in-house production line that preserves fresh produce in a shelf-stable, vinyl pouch.

Sauce production made from tomato donation
Sauce production made from the tomato donations


This capability:

  • Saves on processing cost, making healthy food very affordable to nonprofits that feed hungry people.
  • Creates the opportunity to accept and preserve millions of pounds of produce that would otherwise be discarded.
  • Creates a convenient, easy-open product that can be heated in a microwave.

Our mission at Second Harvest is to feed hungry people and work to solve hunger issues in our community, where 15% are food insecure, including one in five children.

Three problems are key to domestic hunger.

  • The first is nutrition. Many undernourished children are overweight. They don’t have access to nutritious food and don’t learn to like it.
  • The second problem is food waste. Seventy billion pounds of food is wasted each year through conventional farming and business practices.
  • The third problem, or challenge, is a societal movement away from home cooking toward convenience.

The spaghetti sauce produced is made with fresh tomatoes that provide high nutritional content to a meal. These tomatoes would have been wasted were it not for this new capability.

A single parent struggling to feed a family in the 21st century probably did not learn how to cook, and a busy life after a workday and kids’ school is much better filled with a microwaveable meal component like spaghetti sauce than with the typical alternatives—fast-food or ready-to-eat meals with high salt content and low nutrition.

Thanks to our partnership with Sysco and FreshPoint, we are successfully preserving fresh produce in pouch production and it is our understanding that we have only tapped the surface.

Sysco and FreshPoint is capable of providing a half million pounds of tomatoes, which will generate 1.5 million servings of spaghetti sauce.

Thank you for being life-changing hunger champions! 

For continued expansion of the Project Preserve tomato program.
For continued expansion of the Project Preserve tomato program.


Content provided by Nancy Keil-Culbertson, SVP, External Affairs of Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee

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