Vail chefs unite to fight hunger
VAIL VALLEY, Colorado – Cecilia is the oldest of three girls and is a third-grader in the Vail Valley public school system. Her mom directs the housekeeping department at a prominent Vail hotel. Her father works in the kitchen at a large, popular Eagle County restaurant. Money has always been tight for the family of five, but work in the hospitality industry in the Vail Valley has been plentiful and the paychecks have been steady. Over the past year, Cecilia has noticed some changes within her family. Her father doesn’t seem to work as much as he used to. Her mother keeps track of the money for the household; Cecilia hears her tell Dad the family has “more month than money.” Mom has had to cut back on the groceries and the kids have noticed the family eats less, if any, of their favorite foods. Cecilia feels the tension around their humble home and something else she can’t quite describe – Worry? Fear? Shame? She and her little sisters talk among themselves asking each other what are “unemployment, budget cutbacks, too many bills?”Many of us who live and work in the Vail Valley have experienced the drain of the past year’s economic downturn. Though these feel like hard times, are we hungry? Basic, food-deprived hunger? Maybe you’ve cut wine out of our weekly budget, maybe given up the dinner out on a particularly tiring day, or perhaps you shop the grocery store sales more determinedly. But can you imagine real hunger?Here are some startling Eagle County statistics:• Children under 5 receiving Women Infant Children’s Aid: 13 percent (2006)• Children qualifying for free or reduced price school lunch: 31.7 percent (2006)• Children (under 18) in poverty: 8 percent (2005).• Households below self-sufficiency standard: 18.9 percent (2005).These percentages come from the 2008 KidsCount in Colorado study, the Colorado Children’s Campaign. If you notice the dates, these numbers were documented before the downturn of the past year. One can safely guess that all of these percentages have increased.While the numbers are not staggering, The New York Times reported last year (from the Colorado Children’s Campaign data) that Colorado experienced the largest rate of growth in impoverished children, a 73 percent increase, which equals 76,000 more poor children than before. Poverty is defined as a household income of less than $21,834. Paul Ferzacca, chef/owner of LaTour and ZaccaZa!, has been a local leader in the fight to end childhood hunger. For the past several years, he has participated in Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation fundraising dinners in Denver, donating his time and talents. Two years ago, Laura Hagan, Colorado field manager for Share Our Strength, approached him about initiating another event in Vail and Ferzacca was enthusiastic. “Having worked with food my entire life, it’s difficult to imagine people, especially kids,” he said, “who simply don’t have enough.” Share Our Strength is the leading national organization working to make sure no kid in America grows up hungry. They weave together a net of community groups, activists and food programs to catch children at risk of hunger, and ensure they have nutritious food where they live, learn, and play. Initiated in 1988, the organization has a 20-year history of working toward their mission. Since 2004, their grant recipients have posted impressive results:• Served more than 56.4 million meals to children• Reached 1.4 million kids with meals and snacks through after school summer and weekend food programs• Taught more than 288,000 children in nutrition education classes• Grown 3.2 million pounds of produce in low-income community gardens• Spent 134,000 hours connecting families with food assistanceTaste of the Nation is Share Our Strength’s premier culinary benefit dedicated to the mission of ending childhood hunger. In 2009, more than 45 Taste of the Nation events will be held across the U.S. and Canada to raise the critical funds. This year’s goal for the Vail Valley event is to raise $30,000, which will be donated to Eagle County programs that ensure our local children do not grow up hungry. The local beneficiaries are Salvation Army Vail and Colorado Anti-Hunger Network.Paul Ferzacca and Laura Hagan coordinated the first Taste of the Nation Vail Valley last summer, in August 2008. Joining Ferzacca in this year’s Taste of the Nation Vail Valley event are Armando Navarro, Larkspur Restaurant, Kelly Liken of Restaurant Kelly Liken, Kevin Nelson, Terra Bistro, and Jeremy Kittelson, Restaurant Avondale. The five chefs will treat guests to an amazing and unique five course meal (paired with wines from around the world).The event will be held at the Westin Riverfront Resort & Spa on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $125 per person (or a table of 10 for $1,000), and 100 percent of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the cause.In addition to the time, talent, and passion of the chefs, supporting national sponsors include: American Express, Sysco, Food Network, Brown-Forman, and S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water. Local sponsors include Avon Bakery and Deli, Vail Daily, First Bank of Vail & Avon, and Alpine Bank.”It’s our professional responsibility as restaurateurs to expand out of our kitchens and into the community that serves us. It is critical to take care of our own,” Liken said.”Larkspur and Avondale are huge proponents of Share Our Strength, taking part in the Great American Dine-Out and the Great American Bake Sale each year,” said Jeremy Kittelson. “We are excited to host the Taste of the Nation to give directly back to the Vail Valley, to the people who are the backbone of the local hospitality and tourism industry, on which we all depend.”Poverty is complex, feeding a child is not. To purchase tickets for this event, visit TasteOfTheNation.org (click Vail) or call 877-26TASTE.Sue Barham is the marketing director for Larkspur Restaurant and Restaurant Avondale.
What: Share Our Strength’s premier culinary benefit dedicated to the mission of ending childhood hungerWhen: Thursday, Aug. 27 at 6 p.m.Where: Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa.Cost: Tickets are $125 per person (or a table of 10 for $1,000), and 100 percent of the ticket proceeds will be donated to the cause.
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