December 19, 2014

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Food bank benefit offers fine dining, helps needy

LORAIN — It’s been three years since Brian Schwartz has had to labor over what to get his wife for her birthday.

Brian and Beth Schwartz of Huron enjoy their meals at the Generous Helpings event Sunday at Second Harvest Food Bank in Lorain. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

Brian and Beth Schwartz of Huron enjoy their meals at the Generous Helpings event Sunday at Second Harvest Food Bank in Lorain. (CT photo by Chuck Humel.)

It’s not diamonds, flowers or even a gift of any kind, although he’d be happy to oblige her with any of those. No, what his wife, Beth, pines for all year long is to attend Second Harvest’s Generous Helpings benefit, giving them both an opportunity to help the hungry all over North Central Ohio while sampling some of the finest dishes the area has to offer.

Generous Helpings, in its sixth year, draws in hundreds of patrons eager to chow down on food made by more than a dozen chefs. The event takes place in Second Harvest’s food warehouse off Deer Trail Lane in Lorain, which is outfitted with cafe-style tables for people to do as much noshing as people-watching, all while live music plays.

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Beth Schwartz, 34, said the good cause and even better food makes her not even want a traditional birthday gift.

“I don’t need more stuff, and this is such a great event,” the Huron resident said. “Plus my husband always gives me the last bite of his dessert, so we’re all good.”

Tickets are $50 per person, with proceeds going to Second Harvest, which distributes more than 5 million pounds of food from the Lorain warehouse to area pantries each year.

Second Harvest Executive Director Juliana Chase-Morefield said hosting the event at the warehouse amid towering shelves holding crates of fruit, vegetables and canned and boxed foods, is done so that people can be face-to-face with what the organization does.

Tables lined each aisle between the shelving units, allowing diners to stare up at the items their ticket price will help purchase.

“It makes you realize how much of a need there is,” said Beth Schwartz as she stared up at tubs of bananas and apples. “It’s such a wonderful cause and a wonderful evening.”

An estimated 77,000 people, including 32,000 children, receive emergency food each year through Second Harvest or a food pantry that utilizes the organization. That means that in the region, one in six people who receive food assistance gets the food from Second Harvest.

Christina Earl, who runs Second Harvest affiliate Crestline Assistance & Ministries Program, near Madison, attends Generous Helpings with her three daughters every year to show their support. Daughter Amanda Stinehour said the delicious food is a great draw to get people to donate and see firsthand what Second Harvest does.

“It’s right there for you to see,” she said. “Instead of making it far away, you have it right in front of you.”

More than 600 people attended the event, keeping the 17 chefs who volunteered their time and food busy serving mouthwatering dishes such as Fried Schnitzel, Pork Sliders and Guacamole Cones with Lobster and Roasted Corn Salad.

Ken Feathers, chef at Marconi’s Italian Restaurant in Huron, said the event is a great opportunity to help those in need.

“It’s something we can do to raise money for a lot of people who need it,” he said.

Feathers’ Baked Gnocchi Bolognese was a hit with the crowd, as was the gluten- and dairy-free pumpkin and chocolate mousse cheesecakes served by Kristen Ashenbach from Cafe Sprouts in Oberlin.

Ashenbach, whose restaurant offers a plant-based menu including juices, wraps, sandwiches and desserts, said she hoped to show that the variety of foods people eat needs to be a large part of the hunger discussion.

“This is all about alleviating hunger, and I believe hunger isn’t just an absence of food but also an absence of nutrition,” she said.

Contact Adam Wright at 329-7155 or awright@chroniclet.com.