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Record Crowd Takes Bite Out of Hunger at Taste of Hampton Roads

“It could happen to any one of us,” said Michelle King, as she walked around passing hors d’oeuvres to the VIPS who had gathered in the packed fourth floor ballroom of the Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel for the 2012 Taste of Hampton Roads pre-event reception.

That “it” is hunger. One in 4 residents of southeastern Virginia goes without food for several meals, or even days, because they cannot make ends meet. For Michelle King, a customer service specialist at Electronic Systems, Inc., in Virginia Beach, and her co-workers, hunger in this, our land of plenty, is simply unacceptable.

“The thought of people – especially innocent children – going hungry right here in our own community is heart wrenching,” Michelle said. “That’s why we’re here this evening, and that’s why the employees of our company voted to make the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia our preferred charity. We can’t accept that people should go hungry.”

Michelle was just one among the more than 1,100 guests who, on March 6, attended the sold out local Foodbank fundraising event that showcases culinary delights from the area’s hottest chefs and best restaurants. Over 35 restaurants participated in the 23rd Annual Taste of Hampton Roads themed “Taking a Bite Out of Hunger,” helping to make the gala the most successful in the agency’s history. According to Susan Mayo, Chief Marketing Officer of the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia, the event raised close to a whopping $200,000.

“Everything came together very nicely this year,” Ms. Mayo told Hampton Roads Social. “We rebranded the event, we redesigned the website, and we had an aggressive media campaign that also included using social media.”

In addition to the support from the restaurant community, Ms. Mayo said the agency owes the success of Taste to local corporate sponsors. The event’s presenting sponsor was Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc.

“Our company, including our more than 1,000 employees feel very strongly about giving back to our community, and we feel we can make an impact in the fight to end hunger,” Chris Graves, Senior VP for Portfolio Recovery Associates told Hampton Roads Social. The company’s annual food drive, according to Mr. Graves, has distributed over $400,000 worth of food. “Every day, our employees deal with people who have fallen on hard times. It weighs heavily on them. We’ve found that it really helps morale and retention when our employees feel they are giving back in a meaningful way, like helping the food bank.”

Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc. based in Virginia Beach has supported Taste of Hampton Roads for more than 9 years.

This year Taste of Hampton Roads was chalk full of new activities and events that kept the crowd engaged and excited. Most intriguing was a live master chef showdown in which chefs competed to create culinary concoctions, using three ingredients, from items typically found in the Foodbank pantry. Ingredients included peanut butter, canned tuna, ham or chicken, beans, peas and corn, green beans, fruit cocktail, instant potatoes, cereal and oatmeal, rice, tomato paste and sauce, and chunky soup.

After a grueling, adrenaline rushing 30 minutes of slicing, dicing, and spicing, Chef John Mannino of Mannino’s Italian Bistro took the top prize with his crunchy cereal-encrusted chicken cake accompanied by black beans and corn, and a light lemony sauce.

The event was emceed by WVEC anchor Vanessa Coria. Celebrity judges for the master chef competition included WVEC’s LaSalle Blanks and The Virginian Pilot food writer Lorraine Eaton.

If you missed the event, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia can still use your help. You can donate food, time or money to ensure that those experiencing hunger can put meals on their table. For every $1 donated, the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia can distribute at least 3 meals to those in need. Click here to help the Foodbank, or call 757-627-6599.

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Susan Mayo, Chief Marketing Officer, Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia (middle). Photo by Randy Tracy, proimagesbyrandy.com

Michelle King, Electronic Systems, Inc.

Chris Graves, Portfolio Recovery Associates, Inc. (on left)

Culinary Institute of Virginia chefs. Photo by Randy Tracy, proimagesbyrandy.com


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