Local chef partnering to help end food waste and food insecurity

He’s a proponent of eliminating food waste, training leaders, and preparing great food. Chef Hank Reid is the kind of partner that helps StreetWise thrive.

“I started Lettum Eat in late 2019 with the vision to utilize some of the resources that were already available in the community, especially underused church kitchens,” Hank said. 

Serving as a hunger relief organization, Lettum Eat allows Hank to give away food to those experiencing food insecurity. But this wasn’t his original plan for continuing his career.

“I’ve been in the restaurant industry for many years – working in some well-known Atlanta restaurants and moving up to executive chef and general manager levels,” he said. “But I was looking to diversify my skillset, hoping to become my own boss and have a food truck. 

“I started getting these profound messages from God, and in the very first one He told me ‘Don’t worry about getting a food truck and being your own boss; go out here and do My work.’ And He told me to give food away. That’s kind of how it all started.”

Since taking that leap of faith, Hank’s team has grown to include three chefs, three other employees, 8-10 regular volunteers, a volunteer coordinator, and a few young adults with disabilities from Creative Enterprises.

Little did Hank know that the mobile concept he developed was going to carry many people through COVID, similar to StreetWise’s mobile food pantry.

“People [in need] are often fed around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and I commend the  organizations that step up during the holidays to help people,” Hank said. “But we know that people are hungry all the time. So whether every four weeks, six weeks, etc., we want to show up for people consistently enough to one, give us an opportunity to see what kind of impact, if any, we’re having; and two, to let people know when they can expect to get food.”

A similar vision and goal made the partnership between Lettum Eat and StreetWise an easy choice.

“We got involved with StreetWise a little over a year ago; the biggest reason was to help eliminate food waste. But StreetWise has been tremendously supportive of what I’m doing, allowing me to cater some of their events, not to mention helping us with fundraising, processes, and more,” he said.

“StreetWise has the volunteer base, the resources, and people with a heart for what they’re doing. But they don’t boast about what they’re doing; they don’t draw attention to themselves. They’re just out here doing the same thing we are: loving and helping people.”

For Hank, partnerships with other organizations, like StreetWise, are critical and are one of Lettum Eat’s core values. 

Another core value? Developing next-generation servant leaders. And from coaching community sports to serving on school culinary advisory boards to beginning two youth-development nonprofits – one focused on sports and one on cooking – and raising five kids of his own, Hank knows a thing or two about raising up leaders.

“Having grown up in and worked in churches, I’ve seen the struggle to pass things off to the next generation. Like the little old lady that fried the chicken every Sunday: once she died nobody else knew how to make the fried chicken,” he said. “In everything we do, we’re trying to look for the next person to share with and partner with, because we’re not meant to do God’s work alone.

Even some of Hank’s own family are involved with Lettum Eat.

“My wife and I have been married for over 25 years and have five adult children, two of which help me a lot with Lettum Eat,” he said. 

With all that he’s learned over the years, Hank has a wealth of information on how to serve people with food. But there’s a certain truth that Hank reminds himself of to keep him grounded.

“What’s allowed me the success I’ve seen with Lettum Eat is maintaining the mindset of ‘It doesn’t matter who does this as long as it gets done’. With the right heart for it, anybody can do this,” he said. “There’s no other way to be successful in my opinion, without putting God first and giving Him the glory.”

Chef Hank’s more than happy to share what he knows, partnering with and advising organizations like the Atlanta Community Food Bank, local churches and schools, government organizations, and more. 

“There are churches who, after awhile of working with us, have taken over making meals themselves from their own kitchen, and that’s how I know I’ve done my job,” he said. “I see my wins in leading and influencing others to take these tools and do something with them.”

His good work has even garnered recognition by leaders in Gwinnett and beyond. 

“We were recently honored with some awards by the county and state, and we’re just very humbled to be recognized that way. Those have given us an opportunity to shine the light on God and His grace that got us to where we are,” he said.

The way Hank sees it, humility and willingness to do what it takes to help others are key to living a happy life.

“At a certain point in life, you realize that there isn’t anything better to do [than serve others],” Hank said. “As a parent, I’ve seen stuff; as a mentor I’ve seen stuff. Serving is really just an opportunity to show people a better way to do things. 

“There’s no better way to sleep good at night than by knowing you’ve done something for someone else.”