More than 30 years ago, restaurateur Frank Bell asked a simple question: If all of us in the restaurant community pooled our resources and volunteered for a day, could we help end hunger in Boston?
Though Frank is no longer with us, I know he would be saddened to learn that the need has grown here and across the United States. And yet, Frank would be heartened to know that his idea, Super Hunger Brunch — an initiative benefiting The Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) — has morphed into an annual event in eastern Massachusetts. Each year since 1982, more than 20 of the finest restaurants and chefs in and around Boston come together, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting GBFB in our shared mission to end hunger here. At my restaurant, Rialto, 100 percent of the food is donated; 100 percent of the labor is volunteered; and 100 percent of the revenue and tips goes directly to GBFB.
But it’s not just the Brunch volunteers who are the heroes. There are guests who come back to Rialto year after year to show their support and vendors and distributors who always say yes to our requests for donations. Last January, participating restaurants collectively raised over $65,000, which translates to more than 195,000 meals. Equally important, on that cold weekend, 1,700 patrons were educated about the changing face of hunger and the essential work of hunger relief agencies.
Our staff shows up early Sunday morning after a busy Saturday night at Rialto ready to help because we get it. We get that hunger is a reality in Massachusetts and across the country. We get that we have a responsibility to do something, every day, to ensure that everyone has enough healthy food to eat. We get that if children don't start and end the day with full bellies, they can't concentrate, and they won’t be able to perform well in school. We get that education is the gateway to jobs and that jobs give people a pathway out of poverty. We get that kids don’t choose the situation they are born into and no parent wants their child to be hungry. We get that all kids are our kids — and that kids are our future.
Hunger is an issue for all of us to solve and it’s not just about food. It’s about access, education, jobs and dignity.
We walk away from Super Hunger Brunch with aching legs, sore feet, an occasional burn and full hearts knowing the dollars raised will be well spent. It feels good to do something tangible, a little like a barn raising.
Since partnering with GBFB, I have learned that hunger is not just a problem for the homeless person on the street, the kid whose father lost his job or the elderly person living on a tiny pension. Hunger is an issue for all of us to solve and it’s not just about food. It’s about access, education, jobs and dignity.
We can all learn from the movement that Frank Bell inspired. I urge the food community, politicians and civic leaders across the country to put hunger on the top of the agenda.
As a chef, I believe that food is meant to be shared. All year-round, but especially during the holiday season, I encourage those who can to consider the many children and families, neighbors and colleagues who are hungry, and set another place at the table.
This program aired on December 25, 2013. The audio for this program is not available.