Low Country Food Bank's Chefs' Feast Celebrating 25 Years

Two Charleston Area Chefs Reflect On How Impactful the Annual Event Is to LCFB Ongoing Mission

Jeff Walker, Food & Beverage Community Service Writer 

There are several worthwhile organizations throughout greater Charleston. However, few are as revered and lauded as much as Lowcountry Food Bank (LCFB). Since throwing open their doors in 1983, LCFB has made it their single mission over the past 40 years to bring attention to perhaps the most basic human need, and that is hunger.

As their website declares LCFB in unison with Trident United Way and the Coastal Community Foundation was originally established as a clearing house for donated foods. However, during the following four decades the nonprofit 501(c)(3) has morphed into a food insecurity juggernaut with over 250 partners covering more than 10 coastal counties in South Carolina.

LCFB has grown exponentially over the years, with their beginnings in Ladson before moving to the Charleston Naval Base, eventually relocating in 2008 to their 60,000 square feet flagship facility the Hulsey Family Community Food & Nutrition Center at 2864 Azalea Drive in North Charleston. Additional food distribution centers are located in Yemassee and Myrtle Beach.

It's estimated that nearly one in five South Carolinians suffer from hunger. LCFB's mission is to fill that void. Thanks to cooperative efforts from the Zucker Family, the Sysco Corporation and neighboring schools, growers, restaurants, as well as generous support from community supermarkets LCFB has made an impact on over 200,000 people including children, students, adults, veterans, and seniors.

Equally as impressive in regards to their mission to feed the hungry, over 95% of the charitable dollars raised goes directly to programs and services. Frankly that is unheard of. While they happily continue to take financial contributions from retail and corporate partners, a good portion of their monetary support comes from everyday people who might donate $25, $50 or $100 a month, some through Apple Alliance whereas select members choose to make automatic monthly donations.

While LCFB host several fundraising events throughout the year including a Walk to Fight Hunger and a Veterans Day Challenge, their biggest fundraiser remains the very popular Chefs' Feast. Now in its 25th year the annual February event brings together the area’s most celebrated chefs preparing their most delectable bites, with all the money raised going to fight childhood hunger. Freaking amazing! aaaaaaaalcfbfeast241

Kicked off by Charleston's renowned Chef Robert Carter in 1999, Chefs’ Feast has raised more than $5 million over the years, allowing Lowcountry Food Bank to provide more than 24 million meals to Lowcountry children. With Carter initially at the helm many low country restaurants and chefs followed suit.

Don Drake Culinary Arts Director with Hospitality Management Group and Magnolia's has much to offer up on food insecurity. He understands and appreciates all LCFB provides and how essential regular fundraisers such as the Chef's Feast are to the overall cause.

"It’s one event that puts every dollar that it receives to work. Having been involved with the restaurant business in Charleston now for over three decades, I have seen first hand what a great organization (LCFB) they run."

Drake admits some are blind to the need. "I feel a lot of the residents of the city and surrounding area don’t quite grasp the extent of the number of families, where the parents are not quite sure they have money for food for the family."

According to Drake there are varying factors why people utilize LCFB. "With escalation of rents in the area and cost of living continues to rise. I am talking about full time employed people. There are many who can only afford one meal a day and some even skip meals depending on what day rent and the bills are due."

Drake's wife who is a kindergarten teacher in Charleston County has witnessed the need first hand. "In the Mount Pleasant area she also sees many families where the kids come to school hungry . She will take them to the cafeteria to get some breakfast." He agrees proper nutrition makes a difference "It really does help them pay attention in class."

It's a hard talk for communities to have. "When the average conversation starts about food insecurity, I really don’t think people are aware, just how many of their neighbors are worried about how are they going to keep a roof over their head, and food on the table."

Two time James Beard Award nominee Jacques Larson, Executive Chef with Wild Olive on Johns Island and Obstinate Daughter on Sullivans Island says the two restaurants have enjoyed taking part over the years. "Wild Olive and The Obstinate Daughter have participated in Chef's Feast for the entirety of their existence. This month marks the 15th anniversary of Wild Olive and March marks the 10th anniversary for The OD."

Larson's own participation goes back even further. "I, however, have participated in all, but one, Chef's Feast over the last 25 years and had the good fortune to be a part of the inaugural event that took place in 1999, as Chef Robert Carter's sous chef at Peninsula Grill. Chef Carter and Lisa Buzzelli (from Trident Technical College) started Chef's Feast all those years ago and it still is going strong today."

More recently the baton has been passed to Larson. "Seven years ago, I succeeded Chef Carter as the Che Chair of Chefs' Feast and it has been an honor to try and fill his shoes in such a meaningful position that supports such a tremendous cause."

Larson is humbled when he thinks about all LCFB and his own community do to support the cause. "It is truly special to be a part of Chef's Feast each year. The Charleston F&B community has a long history of supporting local causes and in my opinion, there aren't many efforts more noble than the work that the Lowcountry Food Bank champions.

Sadly, Larson says the numbers align with the need. "Fighting hunger and food insecurity in an area where 1 out of 5 people experience these misfortunes is a very important task. These are people in our community, both children and adults, who suffer from both the lack of nourishment needed to get through the day and the stress of not knowing where that next meal will come from.

He adds, "It is hard to believe that in this day in age, so many of our neighbors have to endure such a reality."

Larson declares all praise goes to the never ending mission of the Lowcountry Food Bank. "They fight hard to rectify this disparity and do their best to make sure no one goes to bed hungry each night. Chef's Feast has raised nearly 5 million dollars since its inception in 1999 and since then has provided 24 million meals to children in the Lowcountry."

A black tie optional affair, the Chefs' Feast begins with a VIP cocktail hour followed by dinner and a live auction. This years feast takes place Sunday February 25th at Trident Technical College 7000 Rivers Avenue with the VIP social beginning at 5pm. If you love great food for an even greater cause than this is a must attend event. Single tickets available as well as corporate sponsorship. For more on this epic evening visit https://lowcountryfoodbank.org/get-involved/chefsfeast24/