SBJ/January 30-February 5, 2012/Opinion

Changing face of hunger gives urgency to ‘Party with a Purpose’

Are you hungry for some football?

All eyes are on the biggest game in sports, the Super Bowl. But while many of us are making choices related to parties and gatherings on game day, whether we are in Indianapolis or with friends back home, there are millions of Americans who struggle with a choice of how they will put food on the table for their family’s next meal.

For more than 20 years, Taste of the NFL has worked to raise funds and awareness for hunger relief through its strolling food and wine event held on the eve of the big game. Once again, “The Party with a Purpose” will be the premier event of Super Bowl weekend, but this year is a historic year. For the first time, the event will be held inside of one of the food banks served: Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis.

There is not a better place on the planet to eat this Saturday than to be with 35 of the finest chefs in the country in one spot, sampling their signature dishes from each NFL team city.

Photo by: TOM DONOGHUE
Current players, key alumni and hall of famers from every team in the NFL will be there, eager to talk with guests, pose for pictures, give an autograph, and even embellish a story of a great sports moment for them in NFL history. They have each volunteered to be at Taste of the NFL in order to support the cause. Those players will be joined by other sports and entertainment celebrities, including Tony Dungy, this year’s honorary chair of Taste of the NFL, in the town to which he brought a Super Bowl championship.

Why has Taste of the NFL become not only a
Chef Kent Rathbun of Abacus in Dallas and former Cowboy Chad Hennings (top) dish it out, while former Packer Donny Anderson signs a football for a fan at the 2011 event.
Photo by: TESSA MACLEOD PHOTOGRAPHY
sought-after event, but also a successful fundraising endeavor at the Super Bowl over the years? What makes Taste of the NFL so different, and the hot ticket, is simple. The TNFL team comes together each year with the renewed dedication and passion that we all need to step up and raise awareness and dollars for hunger relief in America … now.

The spirit of the TNFL team recognizes that each of us can play a role in changing the lives of thousands of families and our neighbors who are struggling to put a meal on the table each day for those that they love: their kids, their aging parents, their friends, and for many others who they won’t ever actually meet face to face. The face of hunger has changed dramatically in the last few years, given the challenges of the economy. It’s no longer faces we don’t know; many are now those we know and love who have lost a job, had an illness in the family, lost their health insurance, or any number of other incidents in their life that now leads them to have to make a choice to visit a food bank for the first time just to get the next meal.

Taste of the NFL started in 1992 at Super Bowl XXVI in Minnesota. It was a fresh idea with aspirations to make a dent in the fight to end hunger in this country. It was a $75 ticket then, and from that first sold-out event we raised more than $90,000 to be distributed to food banks in each NFL city. In 2011, Taste of the NFL celebrated its 20th anniversary in North Texas and raised more than $1 million during Super Bowl weekend. That brings the total dollars distributed in excess of $11 million. Those dollars are shared each year with the 32 food banks located in each of the NFL cities. Translated into the cause-and-effect ratio for a food bank, that is more than 55 million meals. We hope to continue that success this year in Indianapolis — with your help.

It’s ironic and shocking that the need for hunger relief efforts would be so much greater for so many more families now after 20 years. But since that need is so critical, the dedication from the chefs, players, culinary students and volunteers continues and grows. We all want to run the score up on the dollars raised in order to help more families.

So, you aren’t going to Indianapolis? If your team isn’t in the Super Bowl (mine isn’t either), you can still join the Taste of the NFL team right now. Go to the Kick Hunger Challenge page at www.TasteoftheNFL.com. There you can click on “Support a Team,” and make any sized donation in the name of your favorite NFL team. One hundred percent of your donation will end up at the food bank represented by your team. And no donation is too small; even a $25 donation can allow a food bank to provide up to 125 meals for families in that area. Everyone wins: You donate in the name of your favorite team, your team competes to finish first, the food banks are able to use these new dollars to help even more families — and you feel great!

In all your choices on how to enjoy Super Bowl weekend, I hope that you will choose to help those less fortunate than you so that they may take one more step toward getting back on their feet. You know that if the situation were reversed, you would certainly appreciate every extra hand you could for you and your family.

We can do this … together.

Wayne Kostroski (wayne@cuisineconcepts.com) is founder of the Taste of the NFL. The 2010 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year is also a well-known restaurateur in Minneapolis.

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