(Community Works is a monthly column highlighting business involvement in community and charitable programs.)
When the homeless and hungry sat down to dinner April 7 at the Mustard Seed in Calgary, it was to a meal of hotdogs and beans.
That same evening, some of the city’s more privileged citizens sampled the wares of more than 50 of the city’s finest chefs and beverage suppliers. The point was not to highlight the difference, but to bridge the gap.
Taste of the Nation is an annual fund-raising event designed to fight hunger with taste. An initiative of Share Our Strength (SOS), Taste of the Nation is celebrated every April in more than 100 cities in Canada and the United States. This was the 11th year for Taste of the Nation in Calgary, and near-capacity attendance proves the format is a success.
Spanning all three floors of the Jubilee Auditorium, the event offered different bands on each floor, a silent auction, market and an enormous variety of gourmet food and beverages for sampling by local restaurants. Sushi and other seafood proved particularly popular this year, according to public relations chair Sharon Newman.
“And of course, there are always big lineups for the Carriage House chocolate-dipped strawberries.”
Although Edmonton was not one of the three Canadian cities hosting a Taste of the Nation event, a similar fund-raiser is planned for that city in May.
Food for all Seasons is a formal dinner set for May 15 at the Sheraton Hotel.
“Because hunger is a year-round problem, the Sheraton Hotel has developed an all-seasons menu,” explains Marjorie Bencz, executive director of the Edmonton Food Bank. Guests will be able to enjoy entrée selections that cover the four seasons, and bid in a silent auction.
In both cases, the corporate support of the community is what makes these fund-raisers possible.
Taste of the Nation has no paid organizers or participants. The entire operating budget is raised from Calgary businesses, all the food and beverages are donated by the participating restaurants, and 100 per cent of ticket sales go directly to hunger relief agencies. Oxfam Canada benefits from every Canadian event, but other agencies are locally designated and this year include the Mustard Seed Street Ministry, the Inter-Faith Food Bank and the Back Door.
“Last year, we raised $70,000 dollars,” Newman says. “Although this year’s total isn’t in yet, every bit that was raised here stays here.”
It’s an important boost for the agencies that receive the funds.
Every day, the Mustard Seed in Calgary feeds as many as 1,150 people. Most of the meals are purchased, prepared and served by various community groups and corporations. Del Bannerman of the Seed says Taste of the Nation support provides the means and supports the mission of mobilizing the community to respond to the needs of the less fortunate.
“It’s good for awareness. Hopefully people think not only how wonderful it was to sample all that food, but that others may not be able to.”
The food bank’s Bencz sums up the bottom line for most hunger-relief agencies. “There’s no question. We simply couldn’t exist without corporate support and ordinary people coming to the plate.”
Share Our Strength believes it takes more than food to fight hunger. But fund-raising events such as these tastefully invite people wanting to eliminate hunger in their communities to put their money where their mouth is.
Food for all Seasons tickets are available through the Edmonton Food Bank.
* Love According to John (April 18-20) at the Jubilee Auditorium Edmonton;
* Easter Eggstravaganza (April 18-19) at the Calgary Zoo.
(Karen Ritchie hosts the Community File on QR77 Radio. Send your corporate/community event listing to firstname.lastname@example.org)