More than 17 million families face hunger in the U.S., meaning there are millions of children who don't have access to meals or proper nutrition. Seeking to combat childhood hunger is Share Our Strength, a charity launched in 1984. One subset of Share Our Strength that has made waves in the restaurant industry is No Kid Hungry, an enterprise launched in 2006.
The No Kid Hungry campaign operates through three initiatives: access, which connects kids to effective nutritious programs such as school breakfast and summer meals; education, which shows low-income families how to stretch their budgets at home; and awareness, which spreads the word in all 50 states about the childhood hunger crisis and advocates for policy change.
One peg of the awareness campaign is Dine Out For No Kid Hungry, a national fundraising event that takes place annually in September. It's a chance for the restaurant industry to unite for a common cause and set up promotions, such as donating $1 for every meal sold or offering a free dessert with a donation. Since 2008, Dine Out has raised $18 million; last year alone, 8,859 restaurants participated and fundraised upwards of $8 million. The goal this year is $10 million.
While large full-service chains such as Denny's, TGI Friday's, and Ted's Montana Grill participate, many independent restaurants also take part in an effort to be responsible members of their respective communities and give to a reputable cause. Some also use the month of September to test new menu items, coinciding with their charitable efforts.
"We felt that it was a good opportunity for us to give back, as well as make a mark and show that we are concerned with the betterment of our community," says Ryan Egozi, director of operations at SuViche, a Caribbean Japanese restaurant with three locations in Florida. SuViche participated in Dine Out for the first time last year.
The restaurant had historically used the month of September to roll out and test new items and collect guest feedback. "When we found No Kid Hungry, we found that it was a great new adventure where we could place these new items on a separate menu and donate part of the proceeds to this worthwhile charity, while at the same time getting our new items exposure, getting feedback from our guests, and really finding out exactly what works and what didn't," Egozi says.
The charity was well received at SuViche, which raised about $1,200 last year. Many of the guests requested more information about No Kid Hungry. "For the most part, they are very excited that we are participating in that, that we do take the time to give back in whatever small ways that we can," Egozi says.
One benefit for independents that take part in Dine Out is that Share Our Strength handles the national promotions so that cognizance of the charity is high among diners.