Forty percent of food in the United States goes to waste every year — and this happens in the world’s most `prosperous’ country, where a silent population of more than 49 million people struggles to put food on the table and one in six Americans goes hungry every day.
This shouldn’t be.
“Hunger doesn’t have to happen,” says Food Lifeline, an organization crusading for 39 years to end hunger in Western Washington. By redirecting good food from manufacturers, farmers, grocery stores and restaurants, Food Lifeline is able to provide the equivalent of 97,000 meals every day to people who need it, while also keeping more than 42 million pounds of food every year out of landfills.
“When food goes into landfills, it is absolutely the worst thing for the environment because it is turning into methane,” says Mark Coleman, Food Lifeline’s senior media and marketing officer. “Methane gas is 27 times more dangerous than CO2, and a big piece of the global warming puzzle is all the methane that is being produced from factory farming and the practice of burying food. “When we keep food out of the landfills and feed people with it, we don’t just throw money and resources at a present problem. We make a long-term investment in the health and future of the country as a whole.”
Helping Food Lifeline’s mission to eradicate the blight of hunger from Western Washington is Chef John Howie, whose dedication and support has been one of the cornerstones of Food Lifeline’s fundraising efforts over the last few years.
Chef John Howie and former Seahawk Craig Terrill lead the Taste of the NFL’s Kick Hunger Challenge, a friendly fundraising competition between all 32 NFL teams to raise money for food banks nationwide. The pair have won the national competition four times in the last six seasons, providing $770,000 – or 3.5 million meals –for Food Lifeline. The Seattle team’s 2017-2018 Kick Hunger Challenge victory alone raised $ 244,044 for Food Lifeline — enough for almost one million meals.
“It’s hard to describe the value Chef John Howie brings to Food Lifeline’s mission to declare Western Washington a hunger-free zone,” says Mark Coleman. “He is one of the kindest human beings I have known, and his generosity of heart and spirit is truly an inspiration.”
Initially, Chef Howie’s Seattle Kick Hunger efforts started with an annual Super Bowl-themed dinner and auction. In 2016, he added a Celebrity Poker Event, now held annually at CenturyLink Field and attended by Seattle Area athletes and other famous famous faces. In 2017, Chef Howie introduced The Taste of the Seahawks, a strolling food and beverage experience for 1,000 ticketed guests and local celebrities. This summer, Chef Howie’s team created a fourth event, the Cornhole for a Cause tournament, making Chef Howie’s Kick Hunger initiative a year-round focus for his restaurant group.
“Chef Howie keeps adding events because he wants to raise more and more money. With so many restaurants and a distillery to run, it is incredible where he finds the energy and the time, but he always does. And his charismatic leadership is so persuasive that others feel compelled to follow him.”
For example, in 2017 Chef John Howie recruited Microsoft to be the presenting sponsor of Seattle’s Kick Hunger Challenge. This significant sponsorship, among other support from Seattle businesses, resulted in a record-amount of money raised for Food Lifeline during the 2017-18 season. .
“We already had a relationship with Microsoft going because they come and re-pack food for us several times a year,” says Coleman. “But when Chef Howie went to Microsoft himself and got us their sponsorship, he raised Food Lifeline’s relationship with Microsoft to a whole new level.”
Chef Howie doesn’t accomplish this alone. His entire restaurant group and leadership team is deeply involved in the planning and execution of each Kick Hunger Challenge event..
“Chef Howie puts in tall orders, but his people are incredibly efficient when it comes to taking care of the details. And of course, there is Chef John himself, telling our story at each event, making sure that every donor is greeted and every hand is shaken.”
Four years ago, when Coleman first started working for Food Lifeline, he noticed the number of Seattle Area chefs committed to the non-profit, including Tom Douglas and Mario Batali, and wondered what drew them so much to the hunger cause. “I mentioned this to Mark Wright, newscaster at King5 who was emceeing one of our fundraising events, and he said, `You know Mark, I think chefs love us with their food. Preparing and providing food is the best way they know how to communicate love, and that’s why they do it. That most definitely must be the case with Chef John Howie.”
The man just wants to feed everybody!