Philadelphia, PA - The energy pulsating in a warehouse full of corporate teams who were hungry to win The Food Bank of South Jersey Hunger Games competition was palpable. The event, which helps to raise awareness and funds in support of The Food Bank of South Jersey Children’s Program (FBSJ), was an amazing site to see. And everyone who I spoke with agreed; the competitors brought the heat this year, making the judges’ decision to choose The Dinner Divas (representing The Soullfull Project) that much more difficult.
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Judges Tammy Paolino (journalist and food blogger for the Courier Post), Chef Aaron McCargo Jr. (2008 winner of The Next Food Network Star), Chef George Kyrtatas (one of the top four Greek Chefs in the world, one of the top five chefs in New Jersey in 2011, and recently inducted into the Hellenic Chefs Association), and surprise guest judge, Lisa Grant (food blogger), joined together to taste and decide on which team’s culinary imagination stood out. Each team was tasked to create a dish under the pressure of utilizing only the ingredients provided to them, which FBSJ typically distributes through its pantry network, in a designated 45-minute time limit. There was an additional bonus: an observer of the competition could agree to purchase additional items for a team to use located in The Food Bank of South Jersey’s store, supplied by Wegman’s. The creative competition was reminiscent of some of the popular Food Network TV Shows, like Chopped or Guy’s Grocery Games.
The 10 Corporate teams that competed, comprised of 4 competitors per team included: Federal Rent-A-Fence, HBK CPA and Consultants, Jefferson Health, GrayHair Software, Subaru, Holman Auto Group, CareOne, Parts Life, The Soulfull Project and Wells Fargo, along with returning this year’s event sponsor, Canada Dry and Snapple.
The cooking competition spaced the start times with 15-minute intervals. Giving the judges time to taste and engage with the groups as they presented their culinary creations, asking questions as needed. As the event host, FOX29 news anchor and reporter Bill Anderson, called them up, the competitors proudly handed off their creative dishes, plated with care to present to the judges, as guests of the night cheered each team on.
“We challenge the teams participating in the competition to create something fabulous using ingredients similar to what you’d find at a food pantry,” says Val Traore, President and CEO, Food Bank of South Jersey. “This event showcases what so many parents, grandparents, seniors and families are struggling with when trying to put a wholesome meal on the table. Our teams quickly find that it’s tough to create a healthy meal with limited resources, so this enables them to get creative and engage with the audience to sponsor the purchase of additional ingredients that will really make their dish sing. It’s wonderful to see how engaged and innovative they become knowing that this event gives our corporate sponsors the opportunity to give back and have fun with their teams while doing so.”
In a separate competition, local restaurants and bakeries like Season 52, Woops, Giambri’s, and The Cake Box by Neelma, competed to win over everyone’s sweet tooth with their desserts. I was able to taste several of the dessert company’s offerings. Season 52, which is a local restaurant in the Cherry Hill Mall, was the dessert winner this year. I would recommend going there to eat, because their individual and decedent parfaits were divine. They presented four dessert options to taste test: Key Lime, Chocolate Peanut Butter, Pecan Pie, and Belgian Chocolate Smore’s, all brought with Season 52’s own scrumptious versions of the originating counter-parts. I tasted the Smore’s dessert parfait, which the smooth chocolate mousse melted in my mouth as the cake base provided a level of texture and weight, and the perfectly toasted marshmallow was airy and light. To finish the small but delightful treat, they placed an individual graham cracker dipped in chocolate; it added a nice crunch and a pleasurably memory of a childhood favorite.
I was not able to taste any of the dishes for The Hunger Games main event, however I was informed that the recipes for all of the dishes created during the competition will be available online.
“We’re thrilled to return this year as the event sponsor and of course to compete,” stated Canada Dry Delaware Valley Executive Vice President, John Taglienti. “Community service is imperative to our company’s mission, and this event gives our team the chance to support that initiative while engaging in a fun, team-building competition that impacts so many individuals in need.”
If you are interested in the Food Bank Hunger Games or would like to find out more information on the event, or how to donate to them to help aide in their cause, you can click here.
About the Food Bank of South Jersey
The Food Bank of South Jersey (FBSJ) is the leader in providing safe and nutritional food to people in need throughout South Jersey. FBSJ distributes food, provides nutrition education and cooking courses, and helps food-insecure families and seniors find sustainable ways to improve their lives. In 2016, FBSJ provided over 11 million pounds of food to approximately 200,000 South Jersey residents. Providing community impact through local support, FBSJ ensures that local donations stay local. FBSJ is a member of Feeding America, our nation’s largest hunger-relief organization.