The Deen family of Food Network fame may be known for meals that evoke indulgent Southern comfort, but Jamie Deen, co-owner of Savannah restaurant The Lady and Sons, is on a mission to raise awareness and collect food for the hungry.
Deen, the older of Paula Deen’s two sons, spoke to First Presbyterian Christian Academy students on Tuesday about his own struggles to succeed and his outreach as the vice chairman of America’s Second Harvest of Coastal Georgia.
“I’m able to help feed hungry children, which is the most important thing that I’ll ever do — I’ve had the opportunity to meet the president, I’ve had a chance to walk through the White House, I’ve gotten to stand on the sideline of Georgia football games …,” he said. “But if I don’t do anything else in my life, I want to see that kids have something to eat.”
The event kicked off the school’s May mission project, a drive to collect canned and non-perishable foods for donation to the volunteer-driven, nonprofit food bank.
“I’ve been through a lot of challenges in my life, but I’ve never been hungry — thank the Lord,” he added.
Deen provided the school with 500 red rubber bracelets that are part of his new initiative to raise funds for the organization. Inspired by the President Abraham Lincoln quote, “Malice toward none; charity for all,” the bracelets say “Do Good Things; Malice Toward None.”
In the last month, more than 2,000 people nationwide have requested bracelets, which are available in exchange for a $1 donation to the Paula Deen Enterprises’ Do Good Things project. All of the donations go to the food bank.
“Every one of y’all can make the world a better place,” Deen told the students. “It’s so simple to do the right thing.”
The star also answered questions about his favorite dishes, his role models and how to get into business from the third- through 12th-grade crowd.
Head of School Sammi Hester said having the star speak about his own issues with school and his path to success was an inspiration to many of the students.
“We started the focus this year on giving back and being mission-minded, and not all about self …,” Hester said. “His message hit home on what we’ve been trying to do all year.”
Technology teacher Maria Reed said the event served as a reminder to not take things for granted.
“We look at food on our table every day, and it’s normal,” Reed said. “And even things in the cafeteria — ‘Oh, I don’t like that, I’m not going to eat that, I’ll just throw it away.’”
But school leaders hope Deen’s speech will help students realize that many others within their own community do not have the same abundance of food that they do.
“It’s to really empower young people to become a part of something and contribute,” she added.
Next year, teachers also hope to bring the Farm to Table fresh-food movement into the school, Reed said.
The school is awaiting a response on $3,500 grant from the Savannah Presbytery M.K. Pentecost Ecology Fund that would allow each class to grow a vegetable garden on the school lawn.
“It’s to create outdoor classrooms, where each grade level will be responsible for their own garden, … It will be their responsibility to plant, to take care, to understand their entire ecosystem, to understand about bugs — and do it all organically,” Reed said. “And then everything that we harvest, we will use here at our school to eat, and then half of that harvest we will donate to a local food bank.”