By Brenna O’Dea
Just about one month ago we gathered at the beautiful Morgan Manufacturing with our friends, families, chefs, and supporters for our annual Feed Your Mind Gala. After months of planning and prepping, hours and hours of hard work from our employees, volunteers, board of directors, chefs, donors, and every single person who supports our mission…the day finally arrived. We were all hungry for success and even HUNGRIER for the DELICIOUS food we would devour that evening. The doors were open, guests were arriving, and it was time to celebrate.
What exactly were we celebrating, you ask? We were celebrating the inspiring teachers who bring our mission and vision to life every time they teach our lessons in their classrooms. We were celebrating the energetic students who engage thoughtfully with each lesson we deliver and whom we love to watch grow and learn over the years. We were celebrating the dedicated chefs who work at all hours of the day and night to prepare one of the most important parts of everything we do…FOOD. We believe that a healthy and happy life begins on the plate and in the mind. When we make connections between what we are eating and how our brains and bodies function, we are better equipped to understand the world around us and learn and grow more and more each day. This is especially important at a young age.
Of course, learning about where your food comes from is fascinating and eye opening at any stage in life. No matter how old you are or where you live, we all deserve access to nutritious foods and knowledge about how that food ended up on our plates. The earlier this learning begins, the better, and the more integrative it is, the more powerful and lasting the impact.
Imagine you are just 8 years old, only a few weeks into fourth grade. You have just started at this new school and you still feel a bit nervous every time you raise your hand to speak in class. New faces all around you, different colored lockers, the swing-set flies a lot higher than the one at your old school and you have a slight fear of heights. On top of all that, your teacher has a new snack for you to try in class today. It is orange on the inside and brown on the outside. It is shaped sort of like a football and it feels pretty heavy when you pick it up. Actually, it also looks like something more familiar to you – a potato. You’ve eaten potatoes a hundred different ways – mashed, fried, baked, for breakfast, for dinner…but why is this one ORANGE?? Well little one, this is a sweet potato. You will learn all about where potatoes were first grown and all the different varieties that exist in our world. They come in many sizes and colors – even purple!! You hear stories about something that happened a long, long time ago called The Irish Potato Famine and you go home with plenty of new fun facts to tell your family. But best of all, today, you TASTED a sweet potato. At first you were skeptical, but after discovering that learning about new foods can actually be pretty fun, you were more open to trying new things, and you now have a new favorite root vegetable.
This is why we celebrate at The Gala each year. This is why we ask for your support and hard work throughout the year. We value your time and effort more than we can express in words…so we do our best to express it through food. Thanks to our wonderful host, James Beard Award winning chef, restaurateur, and host of the always entertaining, Top Chef, Tom Colicchio. Thanks to our many other incredible hosts and chefs, including Matthias Merges, Paul Kahan, Jason Hammel, Justin Large, Ryan Poli, Mark Bazer, Ji Suk Yi, Billy Harris, and oh so MANY MORE…we all shared a beautiful night in support of two of our favorite things: food and education. By the end of it all, we raised an amazing…drum roll please…$220,000. These funds will make it possible for so many more children to taste their first sweet potatoes, learn about the migrations of foods from Europe to America, hear stories about food memories from their teachers and classmates. Feed Your Mind 2016 was a night to remember, and we thank you all for being there with us. We are already excited for next year and we hope with the holiday season in full swing, you will take a little extra time to sit down with your little ones to share some good stories, great food, and help to feed their growing minds.
(Image by Galdones Photography)