The Food Bank of South Jersey’s headquarters in a Pennsauken industrial park gets very rowdy one evening each spring.
Think reality TV cooking show rowdy. And it smells great, too.
That’s when the Food Bank hosts its annual Hunger Games event, in which South Jersey-based companies face off in a cooking challenge, using items found in a typical Food Bank pantry box to create a healthy meal in 45 minutes. (Sponsors of the teams, such as fellow employees, can donate to the Food Bank to add special ingredients to give them an edge). Past winners have made everything from stir fries and smoothies and salads to frittata and quesadillas and dessert crepes.
Last year, The Soulfull Project took home the Hunger Games trophy and bragging rights for their winning dish. The event benefits the Food Bank’s Summer Meals program, which provides kids with three meals and snacks when school is not in session.
“We rely on a strong network of passionate innovators who are committed to helping us combat the hunger crisis in South Jersey, and The Soulfull Project team have been one of those key difference-makers who greatly support the work that we do,” says Val Traore, president and CEO of the Food Bank of South Jersey. “It’s wonderful to see their creative ingenuity in action through this event, and we’re excited to watch what they come up with this year to take it to the next level!”
Teams signed up to take on The Soulfull Project include: GrayHair Software, Subaru, Kennedy Health, Capehart & Scratchard, Holman Auto Group, Association Headquarters Inc., M&T Bank, and Canada Dry and Snapple. It will be hosted by Bill Anderson of FOX29. Judges include yours truly, Next Food Network Star Aaron McCargo, Jr.; “Hell’s Kitchen” finalist Barbie Marshall and Chef George Kyrtatas of SweetWater Bar & Grill in Cinnaminson.
We caught up with The Soulfull Project team through Chip Heim, co-founder and head of marketing, to see if they are ready to defend their title on Thursday, April 27.
Tell those who have not heard of The Soulfull Project’s mission what it’s all about, both your products and your support in fighting hunger.
The Soulfull Project is a mission-focused start-up dedicated to making high-quality, nutritious food more accessible to those in need. For every serving of our delicious multi-grain hot cereal purchased, we donate a serving of our 4 Grain Blend to a food bank in that region.
We launched in August 2016 at select Wegmans stores in the Philadelphia-area with sales benefiting three local food banks including the Food Bank of South Jersey, where we have already donated 21,000 servings. We recently expanded to 64 Wegmans stores up and down the East Coast including Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia. As we continue to grow, we’re committed to expanding our network to include more than 200 food banks across the country.
The Soulfull Project has multi-grain hot cereal in individual cups and multi-serve resealable bags. Our hot cereal cups come in four flavors – Cinnamon Spice, Blueberry Almond, Brown Sugar Pecan and Tart Cherry. Our multi-serve resealable bags come in two flavors – 4 Grain Blend and Hearty Grains & Seeds. Every serving of hot cereal is made with high-quality ingredients such as steel cut oats, rye, quinoa, nuts, flax, chia, dried fruits and seeds. The products are non-GMO, Whole Grain Stamp approved, and contain no artificial flavors or colors.
What made you want to get involved in the Hunger Games?
We’re always looking to make a difference and help communities in need. The Food Bank of South Jersey was our very first giving partner and last year we jumped at the chance to participate in the Hunger Games. We had no idea how competitive, crazy and fun it would be. Amazingly enough, we were first-time winners. We were so honored and had a blast giving back in such a unique way. We’re excited to be back again this year and are hoping to win it all for the second time!
Are you excited? Without giving away any strategy, what is your team doing to prepare?
We are super excited. We have a title to defend and a plan of attack developed by my colleagues, Maria Gamble and Lisa Schipsi, who are our team’s secret weapons. They’re the creative cooks that run the show and I just chop, slice, and dice.
Why should people come out and support the Hunger Games?
It’s a fun competition to participate in as well as watch live — all for a great cause! Each team has their own unique approach to solving the cooking challenge. Attendees get to watch a group of very competitive cooks show you what they can do in a short period of time. It’s also a great chance for teams to work creatively with foods typically found in a local food bank. We’re excited to defend our title and come up with a game-winning recipe.
What would you most like people to know about the importance of fighting hunger?
According to Feeding America, in the New Jersey and Philadelphia area, more than 1 million people are food insecure and may not know where their next nutritious meal is coming from. Donating food and volunteering at your local food bank are great ways to get involved and give back to your local community, but time can sometimes be a barrier to doing so – that’s why we created The Soulfull Project – a product that allows your purchase to live on and have a positive impact on your own community.
If you go
The 5th annual Food Bank of South Jersey Hunger Games will be 6:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 27th at the Food Bank, 1501 Tippton Drive, Pennsauken. The event will feature a wine tasting presented by Visit South Jersey, and a tasting of foods from Take It Home of Haddonfield. Guests can also vote for their favorite bite-sized dessert from area bakeries and restaurants. Tickets are $10 in advance, $15 at door. Visit www.foodbanksj.org