Late afternoon sea breezes and sun greeted guests at the recent Share Our Strength Fifth Annual Taste of the Nation Santa Barbara. The Montecito Country Club event was a benefit for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.
“We have about 219 nonprofit agencies and programs in Santa Barbara County that depend on the foodbank for their food,” said Erik Talkin, CEO of the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. “We’ve had a partnership with Share Our Strength for a number of years now. They’ve been wonderful supporters of the Foodbank and it’s a really great opportunity for them to connect with an organization that is actively dealing with children who don’t have enough food in the community.”
A large crowd of more than 500 people sampled delectable food and drink from more than 50 top local purveyors of fine food, wine and spirits. Among the professionals lending their talents were celebrity Top Chef Fabio Viviani and his award winning mixologist, Jacopo Falleni, who livened the atmosphere with a cooking demonstration.
The mission of Share Our Strength is to end childhood hunger in America. The organization says nearly one in five youths is at risk of hunger in the United States. Locally, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County and the 290-plus organizations it partners with help one in four people in the county.
Lack of proper nutrition and hunger affects children at a critical life stage of growth and learning with more headaches, stomach aches, colds, ear infections and fatigue that can also lead to more hospitalizations.
Chaired by Jessica Knight with live music from the Montecito Jazz Project, the event included a silent auction with a VIP lounge and a cigar bar that helped raise around $50,000 for the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, this year’s sole beneficiary from Taste of the Nation. Each dollar donation enables the foodbank to distribute $17 of food in this important cause.
A common theme among attendees and chefs was the enjoyment in helping others that led to returning year after year, including Brian Champlain from Succulent Café in Solvang, who eagerly shared his serving for the day of “a braised molasses short rib with a house made buttermilk biscuit with a jalapeño coleslaw and a miso paste called red dragon sauce.”
Other inspirational dishes included spinach and ricotta ravioli from Ca’Dario Ristorante, seared Ahi on wonton chips from Marmalade Café, tortellini carbonarra from Pascucci, cauliflower-gorgonzola soup from Louie’s, and fine wine and spirits from Brander, Whitcraft and Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co..
Share Our Strength has raised more than $300 million and supported more than 1,000 groups around the world since 1984. It is working to end childhood hunger with great success.
Meanwhile, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County distributed 11 million pounds of food in 2011, from warehouse locations in Santa Barbara, at 4554 Hollister Ave., and in Santa Maria, at 490 W. Foster Road.
Providing a forum to properly live, learn and play, Share Our Strength supports children with nutritious food utilizing a network of activists, community groups and food programs.
These trademarked national programs include the premier culinary benefit attended on this day, as well as the grassroots Great American Bake Sale; a touring dinner series, A Tasteful Pursuit; thousands of restaurants involved in a week for the Dine Out; and Operation Frontline, a cooking-based nutrition education program.
One of the other unique avenues for generating positive habits was on display at Taste of the Nation Santa Barbara, too, and presented by Eloisa Chavez, the foodbank’s community leadership and development coordinator.
Chavez showed off a unique smoothie-blending machine more commonly used at other kid-friendly events, like the Picnic in the Park Summer Feeding program running through the end of August, and Kids Farmers Markets that are held at many United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County facilities.
This unique “bike blender” utilizes “a blender base attached to the chain,” explained Chavez. “So as you pedal, it blends the smoothies. And we make sure that all of the kids get a turn.”
All of these programs are aimed at ending childhood hunger in America by 2015, with funds supporting the No Kid Hungry campaign.
Viviani, who spoke to Noozhawk about his motivation for participating in the event, summed up the good feelings.
“I love to share and give back, especially when you can make an improvement in people’s lives with food and good overall life behavior,” he said. “So to be here is good. Anything that enhances children, youth and people’s lives is a good place for me to be.”
Share Our Strength thanks the sponsors of the Fifth Annual Taste of the Nation Santa Barbara:
DCH Lexus of Santa Barbara, DRY Soda, 805 Living Magazine, Mentor Worldwide LLC, Montecito Bank & Trust, Montecito Country Club, Montecito Messenger, The Naked Grape and the Santa Barbara Daily Sound.
Click here for more information on the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County, or call 805.967.5741. Click here to make an online donation to the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County. Connect with the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County on Facebook. Follow the foodbank on Twitter: @FoodbankSBC.