Food Bank for New York City, the city’s major hunger-relief organization, held its annual Can Do Awards Dinner, setting a 14-year fundraising record of $2.4 million dollars. The gala, hosted by Mario Batali at CiprianI Wall Street, was sponsored by Bank of America.
“You give New York City the gift of sight, by showing us the poverty and need that so often goes unseen,” Food Bank president and CEO Margarette Purvis said to the more than 600 guests that included nine-time Grammy nominee Ledisi, who started the night off with a cover of Sam Cook’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” Also turning out to support Food Bank were Jon Bon Jovi, Mike Myers, Aby Rosen, Dorothea Hurley, Aziz Ansari, Chris Canty, Rosanne Cash, Peter Cincotti, Gabriele Corcos, Jennifer Ferrin, Dominic Fumusa, Jim Gaffigan, Bryan Greenberg, Carla Hall, Julie Landaur, Katie Lee, Marc Murphy, Brandon Maxwell, Lee Schrager, Gail Simmons, Geoffrey Zakarian, Derek Blasberg, Paul Sorvino, Kelly Tisdale, John Leventhal, Stephanie March, Debi Mazar, Michael Stipe, Peter Brant, Stephanie Seymour, and Wendy Deng Murdoch.
Honored for their commitment to hunger relief were coffee maker Lavazza, photojournalist Joey O’Loughlin, and artist and farmer, Dan Colen. Honorees spoke of the disconnect between appearances and reality in New York City – where so much prosperity exists, and yet as Francesca Lavazza said, “1.4 million people struggle to have a decent meal each day.” Photojournalist Joey O’Loughlin, who documented the journey of food from Food Bank’s warehouse to the dinner tables of the people served, said, “I didn’t realize there were food lines in New York City. I thought that was a thing of the past.” Dan Colen, whose Sky High Farm provides fresh produce and meat directly to Food Bank, spoke of doing what might seem impossible: “There are no hard limits. We can always push to make more and better food so we can stamp out hunger in New York City and beyond.” Special guest Claudia M. brought home that message by proving an insight into her life story as a former pantry client and soon-to-be technical school graduate. “My family didn’t want to beg, but going to a pantry made a difference in our lives. I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to say we needed help.”
In addition to a silent auction, the night included live bidding on items such as a luxury suite at Adele’s sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden; a once-in-a-lifetime dinner by Mario Batali, David Chang, and Michael Symon; and VIP tickets to Jennifer Lopez in Las Vegas with first-class travel by Delta Air Lines. Comedians, Mike Myers, Aziz Ansari, and Jim Gaffigan offered themselves as an impromptu auction item; lunch with the three, cooked by Mario Batali.
Chairs for the evening included Scott Feldman and Jodisue Rosen. Kevin Frisz (Co-Chair), and Mario Batali and Susan Cahn (Honorary Chairs). Christina Grdovic and Phillip Baltz served as Silent Auction Chairs.
Since its inception, the Can Do Awards have raised more than $14 million dollars, helping to provide 70 million free meals for New Yorkers in need. Every dollar donated to Food Bank For New York City generates five meals.