Hattiesburg, Mississippi (pop. 46,000) is blessed with an irresistible small-town southern charm. But what’s drawing an international gathering of some of the world’s most prestigious oenophiles to Hattiesburg for a charitable event to end hunger on April 12? These industry luminaries are coming together for the ninth year, in response to the compelling invitation of chef, author, and restaurateur Robert St. John to stop a nationwide crisis.
As proprietor of Purple Parrot Café—where most of the waiters are accredited sommeliers and the acclaimed 1,000-label wine list has garnered a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2005—Robert has inspired some of the best winemakers and wineries from California and the Pacific Northwest to as far away as Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Spain, and South America, to partner with Purple Parrot Café in an effort to end hunger in America. They are traveling all this way, once again, to sponsor the Purple Parrot Café’s Annual Wine Festival, in hopes to feed more mouths in 2013 for his charitable organization Extra Table.
On the evening of April 12, 2013, at the historic Hattiesburg Train Depot, guests will have the opportunity to sample (unlimited) wines from a selection of more than 100 labels. While many of the wines are valued at more than $100 per bottle, tickets cost just $85, and 100 percent of the proceeds will benefit Extra Table.
Extra Table is a non-profit organization founded by Robert St. John, with the mission of feeding every mouth in need at least once a day. His determination to tackle food insecurity and obesity (two national epidemics that are most prevalent in the state of Mississippi) stemmed from his single question: “What if every restaurant, business, and home in town had just one extra table just to feed the needy?” which occurred to him after he received a desperate call from his local pantry.
He found the solution by teaming up with Sysco, a national food supplier, to make it easier for healthy and modest donations to be made to the empty pantry the next day. St. John launched a grass roots movement among his fellow food professionals, and before long, had a statewide 501c3 on his hands. As other cities and states, like Jacksonville, Florida and New Orleans, ask him to replicate Extra Table for them, Robert St. John’s vision for his community in Hattiesburg, Mississippi is on its way to becoming a national program.