Despite what a few chefs and restaurateurs around town might think, I’m really a pretty mellow guy; it takes a lot to get me riled up. But if there’s one thing that can get my blood boiling, it’s the idea'no, the reality'of hungry kids. There are simply no moral or economic excuses for children'or adults, for that matter'going hungry on this planet. And there’s even less reason for children to go to bed or to school with hungry bellies in Utah. It should shame each and every one of us that it happens thousands of times each week in our own communities. Or maybe shame isn’t the proper response. Better I think to get angry. And better still to do something about hungry kids, teens, adults and the elderly.
For years, of course, the Utah Food Bank has been doing something to fight hunger here. Their DROPS (Delivery Redistribution Of Produce and Surplus), Brown Bag/Food Box, and Kids CafÃ© programs are just a few ways that the honorable folks at the Utah Food Bank work together to gather and distribute emergency food to individuals and families in Utah experiencing the pain of hunger. Twenty-one million pounds of food was needed by the Utah Food Bank last year to meet more than 1.39 million requests, and it still wasn’t enough.
Since Utah perennially ranks first in the nation in number of dependents to feed, our children are especially at risk. Everyone knows that undernourished kids have more illnesses, perform poorly in schools and can suffer from inadequate and abnormal brain growth and psychological development'all because of a lack of food. It’s a sin.
So the Kids CafÃ© program of the Utah Food Bank is of particular importance. Each week, the Kids CafÃ© provides three to five dinners for hundreds of at-risk children in low-income areas throughout Utah'from Ogden to Green River, from Delta to Midvale. Last year at Salt Lake City’s LIED Center Boys & Girl Club alone, the Kids CafÃ© program served five meals each week to an average of 80 children, approximately 13,452 meals. That’s 13,452 meals at just one Kids CafÃ© location that children would have gone without but for the hard work and generosity of the Utah Food Bank and their supporters. That includes me and you.
There is no limit to the number of ways you can support the Utah Food Bank. Literally, every single dollar helps. For example, the Utah Food Bank can take your $1 donation and turn it into $13 of services, thanks to volunteers, community support and food donations.
On Sunday, Aug. 7, Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation will be held at Solitude Mountain Resort, from 12 p.m.-4 p.m. Tickets for the event are $60 in advance or $70 at the door. Most important, 100 percent of ticket sales support local anti-hunger organizations. Remember, I said the Utah Food Bank can take a buck and turn it into $13 worth of food and services? Well, that means that your $60 Taste of the Nation ticket donation can provide the Utah Food Bank'and other anti-poverty and anti-hunger organizations like Utahns Against Hunger'with as much as (excuse me while I get out my calculator) $780 in services and food. That’s a lot of hungry kids who will be given a meal thanks to you. I can’t imagine a better way to spend your money.
I know this all sounds pretty heavy. But attending Taste of the Nation is also one of the most fun things you can do in Utah with your pants on. Imagine having 40 or 50 of Utah’s best restaurant and pastry chefs at your disposal on a sunny afternoon. That’s what happens at Taste of the Nation, as Utah’s top chefs showcase their cooking skills in a truly spectacular orgy of food and drink. Your Taste of the Nation ticket is good for as much as you care to eat and as much wine, beer, soda, coffee, tea or water as you care to drink, and kids 10 and under are admitted free. This year’s Taste of the Nation will include a silent auction, cooking demonstrations, raffles and live music; lift-served mountain biking and hiking will also be available.
The chefs manage to have quite a bit of fun, too. Just take a gander at the photo accompanying this column. ABC4 producer Jarok Greenwell came up with the idea of dressing a handful of participating chefs in tutus for promotional TV ads for Taste of the Nation, saying, “If they’re willing to look silly on the air, then we figure people will be willing to spend $60 on a summer afternoon of great food and wine, knowing that all the food was donated and all the funds raised will go directly to fighting hunger.â€
Chef Chris Sheehan of Midway’s Blue Boar Inn believes that “Charity is worth more than dignity” and Grand America’s bread and pastry czar Kurtis Baguley adds, “If I have to get in a friggin’ tutu to feed Utah, so be it.”
For event information or to purchase tickets by phone, call Utahns Against Hunger at 328-2561 or 800-453-3663.