Handel’s, Second Harvest Spread Joy With PB&J Ice Cream Sandwiches

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Handel’s Ice Cream has been a favorite tradition for many people in the Mahoning Valley through the years.

But not everyone can get to a local Handel’s location during this time.

On Tuesday, Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley and Handel’s Ice Cream teamed up for their first of several upcoming distributions, giving away ice cream sandwiches to residents at the Calvary Towers on Market Street.

Available for sale while supplies last at Mahoning County Handel’s locations, Lenny’s PB&J ice cream sandwiches are the latest creation by Leonard Fisher, chairman of the board of Handel’s Ice Cream. A combination of peanut butter ripple, vanilla ice cream, grape jelly and two vanilla wafers, the treat was introduced to the local community about two months ago.

Now that it’s the off season for ice cream, Fisher said he still has some of the new sandwiches left, but they will not last until late spring. Instead of letting them go to waste, he talked with Mike Iberis, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, about a way to give them away and make people happy during the holidays.

“Everybody loves ice cream, especially Handel’s Ice Cream,” Fisher said. “Everybody smiles when they get ice cream, right?”

Fisher and Iberis plan to go to several locations and give out 2,400 ice cream sandwiches this season as part of continuing efforts to give back to the Mahoning Valley.

“I love the community,” Fisher said. “I love Youngstown. My family grew up here. I’ve lived here since 1975. It’s a great place to live, no matter what anybody says.”

Handel’s has been a part of the community since 1945, currently with 90 locations from coast to coast, and Fisher said there are plans to build another 50 locations next year.

“It’s grown a lot since Alice Handel’s humble beginnings in 1945,” Fisher said. “We have to credit her with making the best ice cream in the world, and we continue to do so.”

Besides giving out ice cream sandwiches, Handel’s is making a monetary donation to Second Harvest Food Bank. Fisher said he believes in giving back to the Mahoning Valley, which helped make him and the business successful.

“If the community doesn’t embrace what you’re doing, you are not going to be successful,” Fisher said. “So the community is what helped us grow from one location to 90. That’s why it’s important for every business to give back to the community. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. If you’re successful, you share.”

Iberis said Fisher’s generosity is an example of what Second Harvest and local businesses do in partnering up to help the community. Fisher approached him wanting to know what Second Harvest needed and what he could do to help. In this case, they will be taking the ice cream sandwiches mostly to senior housing throughout the Mahoning Valley.

“This is kind of a treat for a senior because they don’t always get ice cream,” Iberis said. “A lot of them are homebound – they can’t get out. We’re just glad we can give them a little bit of joy and a little bit of cheer, not only now but hopefully all year long.”

Maybe it is a physical impediment keeping them from going to Handel’s or because they are on a fixed income, dealing with inflation leaving them without the ability to pay for the necessities. But many of the people coming through the line at Calvary Towers were all smiles, and many expressed gratitude or shared that they just love Handel’s Ice Cream.

Senior citizens are not the only ones struggling this year with inflation eating away at how much a paycheck can buy. The U.S. inflation rate in November was just announced by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics at 7.1%. It was 7% in 2021 and only 1.4% in 2020. The average cost of food has increased by 10.6% in the past 12 months.

Iberis said inflation has caught everyone off guard, but Second Harvest is going to continue collecting and distributing food six days a week with the support of donors and partners in the community.

Second Harvest worked with more than 150 agencies in three counties – Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull – to distribute 12 million pounds of food in the past year through 153 pantry partners and served about 13,000 people per week.

“The Mahoning Valley has been very generous to our mission,” Iberis said. “They know what we do. They have the compassion of knowing that they don’t want anyone to go hungry, and their ability to donate food, to donate funds, translates into a lot for many, many, many people. So we’re very thankful for all the support we get from the Mahoning Valley.”

Business and individuals who want to help can call Second Harvest, which will help them find a way to put their donation to work or give them volunteering opportunities.

Any individual or family in need should call 211, a service that has partnered with Second Harvest and can help the caller find a pantry close to them, as well as help them get in contact with other agencies for assistance.

Pictured at top: Mike Iberis, director of Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley, left, and Leonard Fisher, chairman of the board of Handel’s Ice Cream, get ready to hand out Lenny’s PB&J Ice Cream Sandwiches to residents at Calvary Towers in Youngstown on Tuesday.

Copyright 2023 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.