Think outside the box with Michael

"Seek and Ye Shall Find, Ask and Ye Shall Receive."

Meet Michael Conn, volunteer for over six years with Second Chance Foods and always finding new ways to help us grow.

People get their start volunteering for many different reasons; for Michael, it started as a way to connect with people after he started working remotely in 2014. 

"I was going stir crazy in the beginning, cooped up at home, after commuting by train into NYC for a quarter of a century, and had to find a way to get out of the house and be around people! " -Michael

That’s when Michael started helping the Putnam Community Action Partnership – one of our Hunger Relief Partners and now a close neighbor! He later learned about Second Chance Foods at a luncheon honoring our Executive Director, Martha Elder. Michael and Martha met a few more times when she would drop off fresh produce (from Rich Robbins’ garden) and containers of soup from the Second Chance Foods Kitchen to the Putnam CAP food pantry. He filled out a volunteer form on our website and eventually took over the regular Saturday Trader Joe’s food rescue run. 

"It blew my mind to see how much surplus Trader Joe's donated every Saturday! Good, quality stuff too! Sometimes I'd make 2 or 3 trips with the back seats down in my Subaru Forester. " -Michael

In case you were wondering how much food fits in each rescue run...exactly 21 banana boxes can squeeze into that vehicle, plus bags of bread in the front seat of Michaels Subaru!

Taking action at an early age.

However, volunteering and food rescue are anything but new to Michaels’s world. His dad was a great supporter of City Harvest Food Rescue in NYC. We were touched to hear that Micahel still supports their cause; a dollar for the age his father would have been every year – a perfect way to honor a loved one and the things they cared about.

Even as a child, he spent much time in nature on Long Island, NY. He spent time riding his bike all over the island’s north shore and to the local lakes and streams of the Nissequogues River, fishing, observing and being curious about the world around him. When he was around ten years old, Michael was alarmed to see the oil slicks in the creek and wondered what that would do to the environment and wildlife. He took action and decided to write his local daily newspaper, the Suffolk Sun, inquiring and expressing his concerns – they even published it in the Q&A section! Unfortunately, the response was that there was no need for concern – a response Michael did not accept. Even though no change or clarity came from asking the question, the experience of informing himself would continue. Because he loves fishing, when issues about acid rain killing trout in the lakes in the Adirondacks and other places, he started to pay more and more attention.  

It’s no surprise that Michael’s interests only grew as he expanded into the issues of economic, social, and food justice once he was in college. In his undergraduate studies at SUNY Stony Brook, he joined the on-campus food-coop program and then earned his Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology from the City University of New York Graduate Center. 

"I became more interested in broader biological, ecological and environmental concerns. There's even more work to be done now to take care of "the health of people and the planet!" Now that I'm retired from full-time paid work, I plan to do more writing on these issues." -Michael

The "Emperor of Scrounge" making a difference.

Over the years of volunteering for Second Chance Foods, Michael has found creative ways to help us do more. As a self-proclaimed “Emperor of Scrounge,” he has been able to source cleaning supplies, pots, pans, utensils, seasonings, etc., for the kitchen (always ensuring to communicate with our Kitchen Manager, Kathryn, so he’s finding the right items and things that meet her approval). One generous person who saw one of his requests on local Facebook Buy Nothing groups ordered and donated six Instant Pots!

So far in 2024, Michael has helped generate over $500 by recycling cans and bottles. We're so grateful for his efforts to support us while helping the environment. 

"Yes, we can" - find new ways to solve problems.

Like Second Chance Foods, Michael likes solving multiple problems with simple solutions. In December of 2023, he found Steve, who had a lot of seltzer cans and was looking to donate them to a nonprofit organization to receive the deposits. Going the extra mile, Michael offered to pick up the cans and bring them to Quick and Easy Bottle Returns in Carmel. He took the opportunity to talk with Steve about the work of Second Chance Foods and realized how coordinating recycling could help do more than recycle cans for a good cause – but help build connections for Second Chance Foods! So, Michael posted a picture thanking Steve and offered others the option to drop off cans directly to Quick and Easy (a trusted partner) or have Michael help pick them up and deliver on their behalf. He got a great response and now has a group of some regular can donors who were collecting items for deposit returns. They didn’t want to put them out for recycling but didn’t have the time to take them in. Michael picks them up while doing errands and lines up trips to maximize his routes and minimize his carbon emissions. That means he’s reducing CO2 emissions for himself and others, increasing recycling, and generating revenue for Second Chance Foods to reduce food waste (where we also reduce greenhouse gasses) and feeding those in need- talk about a win for the environment! 

"Get started any way you can. You'll have a good time and enjoy yourself. Whatever you do, you'll be helping to "elevate the health of people and the planet," and we need that these days. Find ways to bring your interests, talents, and skills to bear helping. Think outside the box. Yes, we can (pun intended)! Si, se puede!" -Michael

Michael wholeheartedly believes in the saying, “Seek and Ye Shall Find, Ask and Ye Shall Receive.” This belief and his ingenuity are (only some) reasons we’re so delighted to have him on our Hudson Valley Gives committee.

Unknown to us while it happened, but another example of how he maximizes effort for good – Michael was the reason we won the “Final Finisher” prize of the day, growing his intentionally timed gift with a $1,000 bonus by being the last person to give to any organization at Midnight! This year, Michael is excited to connect Second Chance Foods with new audiences, always in creative ways, and to see how he can help maximize Hudson Valley Gives – the 24-hour “give where you live” event! 

"Michael's strategic approach to his participation in Hudson Valley Gives last year is a shining example of how one person's efforts can make a significant difference. His well-timed donation at 11:59pm helped us secure the 'Final Finisher' prize- a $1,000 bonus! That's why, when I formed a committee to help plan for this year, I immediately asked Michael. As with everything he does, Michael brought creativity, enthusiasm, and humor to the conversation. Not to mention his stamp collection which he's donating for 'thank you' card postage. We are so lucky to have him!" - Maggy Keet, Individual Giving and Events Officer

Thank you Michael for all the ways you've helped Second Chance Foods grow to feed more people, rescue more food, and reduce waste in our community!

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Looking for food?

Though we wish we could nourish everyone in need, Second Chance Foods does not directly distribute meals or groceries to individuals at this time. We utilize existing programs in the community and supplement their food with our meals and groceries. If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, please refer to our resource page here for our partnerships and local options.

Mailing Address:

P.O.Box 93
Carmel, NY 10512

Kitchen Address:

120 Marvin Ave Brewster, NY 10509

*please note we do not keep "hours" at the kitchen at this time. If you are looking to donate food please contact or call 845-723-1302


General Questions please contact Associate Director Stephanie Purcell 845-723-1311

Volunteer Questions contact Volunteer Coordinator Heather Marinelli 845-723-1309

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Second Chance Foods is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

EIN# 81-0996695