“Millions of children in America only get 2 meals a day...We’re feeding them their third meal, and we’re doing it in a way that builds their self esteem. We’re opening doors at our partner restaurants for them to go in and order off the menu just like anybody else. And we’re teaching them that they are not a burden. They are important. Their future is our future.”
Steven L. Johnson
Founder and President at The Third Meal
What is The Third Meal?
The Third Meal is a 501c3 non-profit and donations are eligible for tax exemption, EIN 85-3987492. We partner with corporations, donors, restaurants, social workers and link them with children who need meals. Our motto is “Dine with Dignity”.
We make it possible for children to not only eat, but be able to enjoy an experience millions of people take for granted - to go into a restaurant and order off the menu just like anyone else, without the stigma so often associated with 'being in need'.
30 million children are dependent on the 2 meals they receive at school. Most of these children do not eat a third meal.
30 million students qualify for free or reduced cost school lunches through a federal program called the National School Lunch Program. The NSLP covers costs for schools to provide lunch and in most cases breakfast. However for millions of them, it’s impossible to secure that third meal of the day.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), hunger due to insufficient food intake is associated with lower grades, higher rates of absenteeism, repeating a grade, and the inability to focus among students. Such studies show that eating breakfast and lunch is vital to student performance.
Steve and Ray are motorcycle buddies.
They have a secret club that does good in the world. A little over a year ago, Ray was in Chicago using his phone for a Lyft and he saw a young kid on the street trying to get a meal. He could not stop thinking about it. His friend was a school teacher and she told him about the ‘walk of shame’ where kids have to go through the cafeteria at the end of the day and pick up their blue backpack which contained their meals for the weekend. During COVID, they could sometimes get a drive-thru backpack, IF they had a car.
In the middle of the night he woke up and had this idea for building a platform and an app to solve the problem. The idea would be that with a phone and a simple QR code, a family could walk into a nice restaurant and buy a healthy meal like ‘normal’ people.
Their plan was to start a 501c3 and register it with big tech companies who use community support programs to match donations made by employees. It worked. Empl.oyees from Oracle, Dell, State Farm, Nikon, Intel and Adobe joined us.
Next, they’d recruit local, community minded, healthy restaurants to be a part of the program and match our donations to them. They started by simply buying gift cards.
Their first restaurant; Great Full Gardens, amazing people, agreed to help. Angels who matched their already matched donations.
They flipped a few motorcycles and raised the capital they needed to build the platform and the app. They launched a pilot program in Reno NV because they had Great Full Gardens and a mutual friend in BJ who was already working with the kids.
Another friend called it The Third Meal because that’s the one the kids and families miss or skip. He told them he grew up missing his third meal quite often.
Our mission is to provide students in need, that third meal.
PARTNER WITH US
Meet The Team
Get to know the passionate team behind The Third Meal - a nonprofit dedicated to ending food insecurity in our community.
Steven L. Johnson
Founder and President
Steve has spent a lifetime being a creative force in both faith and charity work. As a young adult he started a church in Manhattan that became the spearhead for benevolent work globally and led the organization that opened and pioneered the first two AIDS clinics in Africa. He helped begin and support a hospital in Cambodia that served over one million people for free and was invited to the White House after an inoculation drive he oversaw received national recognition.
Working with non-profits since he was a teenager, Steve Johnson has almost 50 years experience as a leader, fund raiser and change agent in charities both nationally and worldwide. He served as an original board member of the international charity HOPEww, which he still actively supports. He's a sought after speaker, humorist, author, director and actor; he's performed a one man show on every continent except Antarctica and raised thousands of dollars supporting alternative treatments for cancer.
Steve is currently serving as the senior pastor for the Portland church of Christ where his wife and partner have lived and worked since 2006.
Founder and CEO
With a strong belief that together, corporations, municipalities and non-profits, can partner to successfully solve the problems of feeding and educating those at risk by leveraging technology, Ray has been advocating community involvement in his workplace for the past three decades.In 2006, Ray created B.E.S.T. a program partnering the City of Denver, Denver’s Road Home, Volunteers of America, United Way, his employer, Bentley Systems and HOPE Worldwide a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Together they funded, assembled and operated a computer lab teaching basic computer skills and Computer Aided Design (CAD) to the city’s homeless population.In addition, he was invited to present at the 2008 US. Conference of Mayors in Miami featuring B.E.S.T as a model program.
Family and Student Advocate
Magic Johnson once said, "All kids need is a little help, a little hope, and somebody who believes in them." That has been the mantra of BJ's life. She serves as a student and family advocate for marginalized, underprivileged, families living in poverty. Helping to get food to the hungry, clothes to the cold, shelter to the displaced and dignity to the often invisible.After spending most of her adult life on the entertainment stage, BJ heeded the call that it was time to serve and not be served. Decades of traveling the world caring for the needy in Mexico, Africa, and the Philippines, BJ came to realize that here in our own backyard, America, the wealthiest country in the world, kids are starving. This changed the trajectory of her life, Bj is now a minister to the homeless and a voice for the voiceless and, along with her team, received the 2019 Student Support Award for their Poverty Simulator, "A Day in My Shoes."
Frequently asked questions
Have questions about The Third Meal? Check out our FAQs for answers to some of the most common inquiries we receive.
If you don't find the answer you're looking for, please don't hesitate to contact us. We're always happy to hear from you!
We’re so glad you asked! To partner with us, just send us a message, and we’ll connect with you on the next steps.
Children in need are identified by Student advocates already vetted and working inside the school system, primarily but not limited to Title One schools. The children’s identifies are known only to the proper school officials already working to benefit the children in their programs. Our administrators, restaurant partners, and donors do not know the individual children so that their privacy can be respected and the end purpose – for them to “Dine with Dignity” – may be achieved safely, effectively, and consistently.
We’re so glad you asked! If you’re in Reno Nevada, Denver, Colorado or Portland, Oregon, the program is already up and running. If you’d like to join us as a restaurant partner in any of these cities, just send us a message! We’ll contact you with the next steps. We have everything in place to allow you to receive funds and issue gift cards to kids who need a third meal. The only thing we ask is that you help us by matching our donation, all or part.
Many companies have a Matching Gift Program, providing access to a charitable giving platform option alongside other company benefits, increasing employee engagement and helping employees better understand how charitable giving fits into their overall financial picture. Inquire at your organization to see if they have a matching donation program and simply use the existing portal to register thethirdmeal.org as a qualified 501c3 recipient, EIN 85-3987492. Contact us if you need assistance with your MGP.
When you click on “Buy a Kid a Meal” you will be able to choose between giving an unrestricted donation, which serves to feed a kid a meal and support our programs, or a restricted donation, which will send 100% of your donation directly to a kid in need.
Yes! We’ve expanded our program to multiple cities (Reno, Denver & Portland) and are in the process of contacting and adding additional restaurants. On our updated platform, you will have the option to specify. When you make a donation, there will be an option for the city in a dropdown list as well as selecting the particular restaurant, otherwise it will go to support the general program and be distributed evenly.
For now, just send us a message, if you’d like to specify where you want your money to go.
The Third Meal is a 501c3 non-profit and donations are eligible for tax exemption, EIN 85-3987492. We partner with corporations, donors, food suppliers, and social workers to link them with children who need meals. We make it possible for children to not only eat, but be able to enjoy an experience millions of people take for granted – to go into a restaurant and order off the menu just like anyone else, without the stigma so often associated with ‘being in need’.
The Third Meal is currently in the development phase of this digital platform that will allow more and more children to enjoy meals with our partners in the food industry.. We’ve already been serving children in our pilot program and are now able to facilitate donors and partners seamlessly through this user-friendly website. Children and their families can now have their own The Third Meal account where they can access Gift Cards and dine with dignity in our partner restaurants.