Second Harvest CEO credited with expanding program to help more hungry families

Jaynee Day (Photo: WKRN)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – She’s the woman behind Middle Tennessee’s largest hunger relief program, and after 29 years at the helm of Second Harvest Food Bank, Jaynee Day is being recognized as “CEO of the Year.”

Day admitted she knew nothing about food or hunger issues when she took over Second Harvest, but she said as she saw the rewards of feeding families she knew it was the right fit.

“I grew up in a social service family, so I learned at a very early age that service above self was a very worthy profession,” she explained.

And when Second Harvest called all those years ago, Day answered.

“We were only about 1.3 million pounds of food,” she recalled. “We were in a small warehouse of 10,000-square-feet with very little refrigeration.”

Photo: WKRN

Under Day’s leadership, Second Harvest expanded its operation to Metro Center and is capable of meeting the growing demand for food to feed hungry families.

“When we built this facility, we decided to build a manufacturing facility called our ‘Cook-Chill’ and that has really enabled us to take many food items that might have been wasted and turn it into a shelf-stable product of some sort,” she said.

Day also proudly showed off her latest product to News 2.

“It’s a shelf-stable spaghetti sauce marinara style. It has tomato, garlic, onion and it’s low in sodium and it’s good for 18 months and needs no refrigeration,” she explained.

The sauce only cost 18 cents to produce because the tomatoes are donated and there’s no need to purchase cans. It’s also included in every emergency food box and will eventually be shared with other food banks across the country.

Day said it takes a lot of friends to fight hunger and over her career she has since complied an impressive list.

“I’m not afraid to ask because all they can tell me now is no,” she said.

News 2 has been a partner with the Second Harvest Food Bank for more than 30 years.

Photo: WKRN

“I really credit the success of our organization on the relationship, our relationship I’ve had not only with you [Anne Holt], but with Bob [Mueller] and others at Channel 2 and Deb [McDermott]. I credit it with the entire crew… but you put us on the map,” Day said.

Day said Second Harvest will move 32 million pounds of food this year and adds without the help of volunteers it wouldn’t be possible.

“Much of that has to be re-packaged into categories so we can ship it out on a daily basis. Without [volunteers] providing their labor to help us sort through the end food product, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” Day explained.

There’s a campaign to expand the non-profit to include food distribution centers in Rutherford and Benton counties.

Click here for more information on Second Harvest Food Bank.

Click here for more of Anne Holt’s Tennessee stories.