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Eating to End Hunger

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By Coty Dolores Miranda

Sure, any event bearing the Super Bowl XLII logo bears a hefty price tag, but proceeds from the 17th Annual Taste of the NFL are earmarked to help local food banks.

Considering the cadre of nationally known chefs, celebrity NFL football stars and even the TNFL founder and executive director are all volunteers, donating their time, and paying their travel costs and food used for the annual fundraiser, this makes the upcoming Saturday, Feb. 2nd night at the Phoenix Convention Center a “win-win” all around.

The Taste of the NFL, also known as the “Party with a Purpose” is a premiere food and wine tasting held on the eve of Super Bowl in the host city, or in this case, nearby.

But attendance doesn’t come cheap.

Those who can fork out the $6,000 for a corporate table with seating for 10, $600 for VIP tickets that include a ‘special seating area’, or the lowest priced no-seat guest ticket of $500, will find themselves hobnobbing and noshing with national and local glitterati including Martha Stewart who will broadcast live from the venue for her SIRIUS satellite radio show (channel 112).

As with the 1996 Super Bowl XXX held here in the Valley, a hefty portion of the monies raised are earmarked for two local food banks including St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, the nation’s first food bank, as well as others nationwide served through America’s Second Harvest, which was also founded locally.

Acknowledging that, TNFL founder and executive director Wayne Kostroski says those facts add “significant meaning to our mission.”

“Not only is the Taste of the NFL one of the best parties that you’d ever attend, but the added plus is that one’s attendance also will ultimately benefit thousands of families through the proceeds,” says Kostroski.

Local food bank spokespersons agree the influx of funds is much needed as the numbers of people seeking aid continue to swell.

“Yes, it’s an expensive ticket, but it raises such a great amount of money for us, and consider that for every $1 we get, we can distribute enough food for seven meals. Its huge for us,” says St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance spokeswoman Cynde Cerf. Cerf says  demand for food has increased 40 to 50 percent over last year at this time. “That’s an unbelievable growth that we weren’t expecting.”

Donna V. Rodgers, director of resource development for the Mesa-based United Food Bank (which also benefits from the largesse of TNFL), says she won’t be attending the event because for her, “it’s cost prohibitive,” but nevertheless remains very thankful for the help it will give her organization.

“Members of America’s Second Harvest across the country receive proceeds from the event every year, but as members in the host city, we’ll receive a somewhat larger donation this year,” she says, adding that the food bank also benefited from the 1996 Super Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium. “It goes without saying that we’re grateful for the monetary support we receive through Wayne’s (Kostroski) and the host committee’s efforts in this event.  More importantly, we truly appreciate the added awareness the issue of hunger receives as a result of their efforts.”

“With all of the abundance in this country, it is such a shame that people go hungry,” she adds.

Guests attending the event at the cavernous Convention Center’s South Building will sample culinary offerings from 32 NFL teams and the Pro Bowl.

In addition to the team stations, guests can visit new sections, including “Flavors of the Valley.” Among these is the doyenne of Valley resorts – the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa, host of 1996 Taste of the NFL.

Arizona Cardinals alum Michael Bankston will assist Wright’s at the Biltmore’s head chef Conor Favre.

Among local chefs participating are The Golf Club Scottsdale’s head chef Eddie Matney, Cowboy Ciao’s Bernie Kantak, Furio’s Jagger Griffin, Michael DeMaria of Michael’s Catering and John Carver of Roaring Fork, Eddie V’s Edgewater Grille and Wildfish Seafood Grille.

For Michael DeMaria, being tapped was a thrill.

“My BF (best friend), Eddie Matney (longtime TNFL volunteer), asked me to be a part of this. I said, ‘Dude, it’s an honor!’” says DeMaria. DeMaria is chef/owner of Michael’s Catering who is opening two new restaurants in Tempe this spring. “I’m an NFL fan anyway and with all the chefs from around the country, the experience will be incredible! I feel very proud to be a part of this.”

The 17th Annual Taste of the NFL

What: Food and wine fundraiser benefits America’s Second Harvest – the Nation’s Food Bank Network, and locally, St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance and United Food Bank.

When: Super Bowl XXII Eve, Saturday, Feb. 2, 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Where: Phoenix Convention Center, South Building

Tickets: $500 and $600; corporate table for 10, $6,000

A 2008 NFL Restaurant Guide ($19.95), also benefiting food banks, can be ordered online at www.TasteoftheNFL.com

Information: www.TasteoftheNFL.com

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