Food for Thought partners with local restaurants to combat hungerWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Twenty local restaurants have enlisted in a one-day campaign to help fight hunger.
Food Fight 419 is a fundraiser organized by local nonprofit Food for Thought in recognition of National Hunger Awareness Month. Participating restaurants will donate 5 percent of their one-day sales to Food For Thought. The all-day event will take place Sept. 24.
Participating restaurants are Balance Pan-Asian Grille (Sylvania and Maumee), Black Kite Coffee, Burger Bar 419, Caper’s, Deet’s BBQ, El Tipico, Epic Buffet, Final Cut Steak & Seafood, JB’s Sarnie Shoppe, Mancy’s Italian, Mancy’s Steaks, Ottawa Tavern, Plate 21, Registry Bistro, Scene, Take 2 Grill, The Blarney Irish Pub and Vito’s Pizza (East Toledo and Oregon).
Sam Melden, Food for Thought’s chief thought officer, said he got the idea from a similar fundraiser organized by the Columbus-based Central Ohio Restaurant Association to benefit the Mid-Ohio Foodbank.
“I saw they did this event in Columbus and said, ‘What if we did our own, but linked it up with National Hunger Awareness Month?’” Melden said. “I want to give a lot of credit to the local restaurant community. We have a strong community who wants to be engaged in Food for Thought and wants to be engaged in fighting hunger in our area.”
Melden said he is always trying to come up with new and creative ways to fundraise. In May, Food for Thought hosted Jam City, which challenged local restaurants to create a dish inspired by the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the organization gives away in sack lunches each Saturday morning in Downtown Toledo.
“This event will kind of be the opposite of Jam City,” Melden said. “For Jam City, we had all the restaurants come to us and they had to do something different and unique. We charged admission and it was like a big party. Now we’re sending our supporters back out to the restaurants. We’re telling our restaurants not to do anything different and I think that’s great.”
Food For Thought, which formed in 2007, strives to build relationships in addition to providing food, Melden said.
“With Food For Thought, it’s more about eye contact than it is about full stomachs; it’s more about handshakes than it is about handouts,” Melden told Toledo Free Press earlier this year. “Food is a vehicle to making simple, dignified relationships with people.”
The money raised by Food Fight 419 will go toward the operation of Food for Thought’s mobile pantry program, including food budget, gas and vehicle maintenance, Melden said. The organization recently acquired a second truck and trailer and expanded its outreach to 19 food pantries, 18 being mobile and one located at New Harvest Christian Church in Oregon.
“Just because something is going well doesn’t mean the problem is going away,” Melden said. “That’s what happens sometimes with Food for Thought and other organizations. People see success and walk away because they think that means it’s self-sustaining and they don’t need my contribution, but that’s not the case at all. We need community support more than ever.”
Sandy Spang, owner of Plate 21, said she wanted to participate in Food Fight 419 because Food for Thought’s emphasis on community mirrors her own business philosophy.
“The spirit within the Food for Thought organization is so great because you don’t have a sense of us and them; you have a sense of community,” Spang said. “The best ideas are simple and this is a simple, direct idea. It’s also the season of Thanksgiving and we all have so much, so it’s perfect timing. We’re just honored to be part of it and share. I know Plate 21 customers will be happy to be part of this.”
Hollywood Casino Toledo Executive Chef Brian Hein said giving back to the community is important to Penn National Gaming. All four casino restaurants — Epic Buffet, Final Cut Steak & Seafood, Scene and Take 2 Grill — are participating.
“Food Fight 419’s focus on addressing hunger at a local level was something that really hits home,” Hein wrote in an email. “We have other local partnerships that maintain local focus on feeding the disadvantaged every day. This is another way for us to jump in and hopefully spark a local reaction to assist the most urgent local need.”
Melden said he’s hoping for a big turnout.
“For people who support Food for Thought already, it’s a great way to go thank restaurants for their support and it’s a great way to take people out to eat and tell them about Food for Thought,” Melden said. “For everyone who might be just getting to know Food for Thought or understand what it’s all about, it’s a great opportunity to go out to your favorite restaurants with intentionality — knowing the same day you are enjoying a meal out, you’re also helping give back to the enormous percentage of people in our area who are not only not going out to eat, but are trying to figure out what they are going to make for their family that evening.”
Tags: Balance Pan-Asian Grille, Black Kite Coffee, Burger Bar 419, Caper's, Central Ohio Restaurant Associateion, Columbus, Deet's BBQ, East Toledo, El TIpico, Epic Buffet, Executive Chef Brian Hein, Final Cut Steak & Seafood, Food Fight 419, Food for Thought, Hollywood Casino, Jam City, JB's Sarnie Shoppe, Mancy's Italian, Mancy's Steaks, Maumee, Mid-Ohio Foodbank, National Hunger Awareness Month, New Harvest Christian Church, Oregon, Ottawa Tavern, Penn National Gaming, Plate 21, Registry Bistro, Sam Melden, Sandy Spang, Scene, Sylvania, Take 2 Grill, The Blarney Irish Pub, Vito's Pizza