Industry News | March 18, 2009

Industrywide Push to End Childhood Hunger Launched

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Each year, more than 12 million children in America (one in six) worry about when their next meal will come. This year, Food Network star Aaron McCargo, Jr. will serve as the national spokesperson for the second annual Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out.

From September 20 – 26, 2009, this week-long national event will join thousands of restaurants—from coffee shops to fine-dining establishments—in cities across the country to raise funds to help end childhood hunger in America. With a broad range of restaurant and catering experience, McCargo feels passionate about helping Share Our Strength as millions of consumers visiting participating restaurants will help make sure no kid in America grows up hungry.

The first Great American Dine Out in 2008 raised more than $500,000. Four thousand casual- and fine-dining restaurants participated, from independent and family owned establishments to large chains and restaurant groups. Donations from the week’s restaurant sales, direct donations from customers and restaurant suppliers, and money raised through restaurant promotions all helped to make Great American Dine Out a success.

To date, more than 1,500 restaurants have signed up for the 2009 Great American Dine Out, including Corner Bakery Cafe, Dave & Busters, The Great American Restaurants, Il Fornaio, First Watch, Claim Jumper, Captain D’s, Lonestar Steakhouse & Saloon and Texas Land & Cattle Steak House, McAlister’s Deli and Joe’s Crab Shack. Registration is open until September 1, 2009—go to

“We are asking millions of consumers and thousands of restaurants to help us fight childhood hunger,” says Billy Shore, co-founder and executive director of Share Our Strength.

“We were heartened by the generosity and commitment of restaurant diners and the restaurant industry last year. Our hope is to continue this program every year until every child in America has access to nutritious food where they live, learn and play.”

With the demand for food assistance in America the highest it’s been in a generation, Food Network star Aaron McCargo, Jr. will proudly serve as the 2009 national spokesperson for Great American Dine Out to help generate awareness and drive participation.

McCargo brings a wealth of experience to the position: He worked in nine New Jersey casual- and fine-dining restaurants (including his own) before becoming the 2008 winner of The Next Food Network Star and consequently the host of his own hit Food Network series, Big Daddy’s House.

He also served as the executive VIP catering chef at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, attended Atlantic Cape Community College's Academy of Culinary Arts, speaks to Camden-area youth about overcoming adversity to achieve personal goals, and was recently honored by the city of Camden (where he was born and raised) for his commitment to service and his success in the food industry. He enjoys big, bold flavors and family-style cooking, a perfect match for Great American Dine Out’s encouragement of eating out together as friends and families to help America’s families who are struggling to put food on their tables.

The restaurant industry’s commitment to ending childhood hunger played a vital role in the success of the first Great American Dine Out. To recognize their valued partnership and participation, Debbie Shore, co-founder of Share Our Strength, presented the National Restaurant Association with a special service award during its annual Board Meeting in January 2009, marking its continued contribution to the success of the Great American Dine Out.

The 2009 Great American Dine Out is sponsored by Sysco, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, Ecolab, Food Network, USA Today, and The National Restaurant Association.

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