It may seem incredulous to think that hunger is a problem in the United States -- especially when we simultaneously have an obesity epidemic -- but according to Share Our Strength, a national organization working to end childhood hunger nationwide, there are currently 16 million kids living without access to adequate nutrition.
That means one in five children went to school on an empty stomach, don't have enough money to buy lunch, and will be served a less-than-nutritious meal for dinner.
Local philanthropist Vaughan Lazar was surprised to learn about those numbers. As CEO and founder of the locally based Pizza Fusion chain and partner of Boca Raton's Kapow! Noodle Bar, Lazar told Clean Plate Charlie he decided to join Share Our Strength's "No Kid Hungry" team when he heard about its efforts in early 2011.
"Being in the restaurant business, you come across a lot of worthy nonprofits and fundraising opportunities, but this one really resonated with what this industry is all about," Lazar said. He became one of more than 500 South Florida restaurateurs participating in Share Our Strength's fundraising campaign, known as the Great American Dine Out, in which thousands of restaurants across the country offer creative promotions to raise money.
Share Our Strength raises funds nationwide through various campaigns and in turn makes grants to nonprofits capable of doing the charitable work in their own communities.
The Great American Dine-In, part of the "No Kid Hungry" campaign, takes place annually for one week during September. This year's dine-in began September 16 and ends this Sunday, September 23.
Hundreds of chain restaurants like Papa John's, Denny's, Arby's, and Pizza Fusion are participating. Local privately owned participants include Kapow!, Delray Beach's Mellow Mushroom, and Fort Lauderdale's Joe's Crab Shack.
To keep the good karma flowing, Lazar is donating proceeds not just from this week but from the entire month of September. Specifically, all Pizza Fusion location patrons can donate $1, $5, or $10 to receive a complimentary cookie, flatbread, or large cheese pizza (respectively) during their next visit. Those who donate $20 will get a "No Kid Hungry" T-shirt.
At Kapow!, proceeds from the sale of a specialty cocktail dubbed the "Fountain of Youth" will be donated. The cocktail -- a combo of Tito's Handmade vodka, St. Germain liqueur, fresh-muddled lemon and mint, topped with prosecco -- is a steal at $8.
Lazar also has a September birthday, and this year, he asked friends and family to hold off on buying him a bottle of vodka and instead donate to SOS through this Crowd Rise page, which had garnered more than $1,500 in donations at the time of this writing.
For a complete list of area restaurants participating in Dine Out, visit the Share Our Strength site here. Now that's putting your money where you mouth is!
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