Full disclosure: This is where I have to insert the standard blogger’s thing that this is technically considered a “sponsored post”. I did receive 3 complimentary meals and two t-shirts in exchange for writing this, but anything for a great cause I will happily sell my soul…ok, maybe not my soul…but you know what I mean. Carry on…
If you happen to be on my email list or follow me on social media, you may have seen…and even entered…the contest I was running a few weeks ago for a chance to have lunch with me.
Ok, look, I am not that full of myself to think anyone in Tampa Bay would enter a contest just to break bread with me. I mean, I like food, know food, create some pretty awesome food for family and friends, spent many years working in the food industry plus I do believe I have great table manners and can carry a conversation, but there’s no reason anyone would enter a contest for a free meal with me “just because”.
So what was the hook? Give And Grub, a joint project between Laser Spine Institute, Metropolitan Ministries, Feeding America Tampa Bay and Tampa Bay Lightning. This non-profit food truck hit the roads of Tampa Bay last fall with a mission and passion to help fight hunger with every meal purchased or even with a simple share of the hashtag #GiveAndGrub.
How smart is that?
Call me crazy but…most of us are on social media anyway so would it really hurt any of us to share this hashtag?
And we’ve all gotta eat! So if the food is good (and in this case it’s great…trust me) and the truck happens to show up right outside your office at lunch time, at a Thursday or Saturday Lightning home game, numerous events on any given night or weekend or maybe even the next wedding you attend (yep, they’ll do that), it’s kind of a no-brainer right?
And so far, this no-brainer has amounted to over 30,000 meals delivered to children in need.
I was originally supposed to experience Give And Grub as part of a Tampa Bay Bloggers event, a group I had only recently gotten involved with online. I was really looking forward to meeting some of my fellow bloggers in person before a Lightning game at the beginning of March to sample all of the truck’s amazing offerings, in exchange, as mentioned in my disclosure above, for us all to write a blog about it.
But that was unfortunately during my week or two of being out of focus and the email invite got lost in a sea of a bazillion other emails.
When I realized I had missed it, I reached out to the Give And Grub advocate that had arranged the blogger event, begged for forgiveness and a chance to meet up with the truck sometime in the near future. My wish was granted…and I could bring a guest to boot…woo hoo!
So last week I met up with the truck behind a large office building on Kennedy Avenue at the foot of the Howard Frankland Bridge. This is when I should probably mention the lucky winner who got a free meal (but we didn’t actually eat it together…more on that later) was Kim Kindle, a fellow Tampa Bay Blogger, who also didn’t make to the Lightning game a few weeks before, pictured below with me and some t-shirts we were given.
Tina Rose Hunt, the social media manager for Laser Spine Institute, was also on hand to give us a little background about Give And Grub. Suffice it to say, I was blown away by the information she provided including the fact that every Friday, Metropolitan Ministries delivers a package of 5 meals to every child (to consume at home over the weekend) at two area schools on behalf of the Give And Grub initiative.
They choose the schools based on the demographics provided through Hillsborough County’s Student Nutrition Services Free and Reduced Lunch Program, part of the National School Lunch Program which guarantees every school-aged child meals and snacks during any school day.
Unfortunately, for many of the children who receive subsidized meals during school, once they get home dinner may not happen…or at least not one with significant substance. And while it is bad enough for them to have little promise of a balanced meal at home during the week, can you imagine going an entire weekend?
I asked Tina if they have instituted a cap on the number of free meals they are willing and able to give away and while the initial goal was set at 150,000 over the course of a year, they are considering making this a permanent project. In fact, they are looking to expand the concept to the locations around the country where Laser Spine Institute has other facilities. Obviously, the logical partnership would be if each of those markets has a hockey team so they can carry the branding of their Stick It To Hunger campaign but I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to come up with another clever tagline for any potential partner in those communities.
Anyway, before I knew it, I realized we had been talking to Tina for almost an hour. And after smelling the various foods being prepared and watching customers walk by with their meals that entire time, yeah, I was hungry. I was thrilled to find out I could order 3 meals to sample and, while I love me some good eats, clearly I wasn’t planning to eat it all nor was I about to let any it go to waste.
And by “it”, I mean the Bishop Bowl consisting of blackened shrimp wasabi caramel, saffron red beans, mango and plantains on a bed of cilantro rice…
the Callahan’s Mac Slam, a combination of seared Kielbasa and caramelized peppers and onions on top of cavatappi pasta with a creamy boursin cheese sauce…
the Hedman’s Steak Tacos loaded with marinated skirt steak and served with a roasted corn pico de gallo, chipotle ranch dressing and Tijuana rice…
and finally the Cross-Check Sweet Potato Fries with not one, but two dipping sauces…marshmallow and caramel.
I took it all to go and headed to Centre Club Tampa for, believe it or not, the monthly Food and Wine committee meeting. Yep, I strategically planned it so I could share my bounty and help spread the word to the various committee members. Sure enough, in the blink of an eye the food was gone! My work there…and now here…I believe is done.
Well, that’s not true because I want to make sure that if you are interested in having the Give And Grub Truck come to your office or event, please click here and fill out the request form. And don’t forget, simply sharing the #GiveAndGrub hashtag is the easiest way you can help support this incredible effort to fight hunger.
Ok, that’s really it for now…#BlackerOut !
P.S. In case you are wondering what my companion Kim on this mission ordered, here she is in all of her food glory with the Chicken Parmkos (named after the Lightning’s Steven Stamkos) which,of course, is a breaded chicken cutlet with house-made marinara and aged parmesan chese on a fresh Italian roll.
FYI…I forgot to mention above that all of the menu items are named after Lightning players and others involved with the team. Seriously, now I am really done!