In a ceremony before more than 500 community leaders, CEOs, top chefs, and restaurateurs, elected officials and anti-hunger organizers at Share Our Strength’s Conference of Leaders, 17 individuals, organizations, and business leaders were honored for their exceptional commitment to ending childhood hunger in America. These seven award-winners represent the hospitality industry at its finest:

RJ Melman, Partner, Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises, Chicago:
2011 Share Our Strength’s Chef/Restaurateur of the Year

After two years as co-chair, Melman served as the 2011 chair of Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Chicago, doubling the event’s revenue from the previous year. Melman, a partner in Lettuce Entertain You, leveraged his resources as a restaurateur to bring in tens of thousands of dollars in new sponsorships and donations to Share Our Strength’s cause.

He also attracted top chef, vendor, and celebrity talent to the all-volunteer committees, built goodwill for the organization among a very influential young donor community in Chicago, and actively supported fundraising operations for the roll-out of Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry Illinois campaign.

Stephen J. Brady, President, Sodexho Foundation, and Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Sodexo, Gaithersburg, Maryland:
2011 Tyson Power of the Spirit Award

Brady, who passed away March 5, 2011, was a tireless advocate in the fight to end childhood hunger. He served on countless task forces and committees with Share Our Strength and was among the first people to invest in Share Our Strength’s strategy to end childhood hunger in America. He brought his commitment to life through the implementation and support of Sodexo’s programs Feeding Our Future, Heroes of Everyday Life, Sodexo Servathon, and the STOP Hunger Scholarships, now named after Brady. Under his leadership, the Sodexo Foundation distributed grants totaling $15 million to hunger-related causes across the U.S. since 1999.

His wife Pascale accepted the award, saying, “This is a fitting tribute to Steve’s ceaseless efforts to fight child hunger in America. Steve was not only committed to Share Our Strength’s mission but also impressed with the organization’s leadership and vision. It both pained and aggravated him to know that children in our prosperous nation could go to bed hungry.”

Share Our Strength created this award with Tyson to honor Sue Brockaway, a Tyson employee who has always shared her strength, commitment, and indomitable spirit to help end childhood hunger.


John Miller, President and CEO, Denny’s Corp., Spartanburg, North Carolina:
2011 Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry Leadership Award

Miller has adopted Share Our Strength’s goal of ending childhood hunger in America as his own personal mission. Soon after becoming Denny’s new chief executive in January 2011, Miller committed the company to participating in Dine Out For No Kid Hungry this September, and brought a total of 745 restaurants to the cause (including 515 franchise units), the most of any restaurant brand in the program’s four-year history.

In addition, Miller successfully recruited other popular restaurant brands to the program, and signed Denny’s on as a Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry partner. He has served on the Dine Out For No Kid Hungry Advisory Board for three years.

Bill Ruby, vice president, Field Marketing & Media accepted the award for Miller, saying, “We’re thrilled and honored to be a part of Share Our Strength and No Kid Hungry. We’re on track to raise about $200,000 through this year’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry.”

New Jersey Restaurant Association, Trenton, New Jersey:
Share Our Strength’s 2011 State Restaurant Association Leadership Award

Dawn Sweeney, chief executive officer of the National Restaurant Association, presented this award to Deborah Dowdell, president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association, and commended the association for recruiting 77 restaurants to Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry this year, including the first IHOP franchise group to participate in the program.

“They have had success through all of the traditional means and a lot of hard work,” Sweeney says of the NJRA.

The association used a multi-media approach to recruit members to Dine Out For No Kid Hungry, and brought Blackstone Winery to the table as regional sponsor; Blackstone raised $25,000 for Share Our Strength through a cause marketing campaign.

Sweeney also acknowledged the Georgia Restaurant Association as runner-up for the award for using all media outlets and touch points to get the word out in Georgia, a state with a high rate of child hunger, about Dine Out For No Kid Hungry. The National Restaurant Association has been a national sponsor of Share Our Strength’s Dine Out For No Kid Hungry since its inception in 2008.

Robert Murnan, Sodexo-Midwest Surgical Center, Omaha, Nebraska:
2011 Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters Leadership Award

In the past three years, Murnan has served as a tireless and much-loved volunteer chef-instructor for Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters program in Omaha, teaching at-risk families and children how to prepare nutritious, delicious, affordable meals at home, and using his culinary expertise to provide the skills and confidence they need to put healthy food on the table.

Murnan spends countless hours promoting Cooking Matters through special events, television spots, and other traditional means; recruiting fellow chefs; and creating recipes for the program. Murnan has also represented Cooking Matters at the national level, during presentations to the American Dietetic Association Foundation’s board of directors and to the Governors Spouses Association, where he taught Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman a core Cooking Matters skill: how to cut up an onion!

His actions and dedication mark him as a role model to chefs; Murnan is a case study in how chefs can be a leader in their communities and make a lasting impact on the lives they touch.

“I want to thank Cooking Matters for giving me the opportunity to reach these kids and share my passion for cooking with them,” Murnan says of the award.


Michele Gorham, Owner, Cookie Central, North Andover, Massachusetts:
2011 Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale Leadership Award

Over the past three years, Gorham has demonstrated her deep commitment to ending childhood hunger in America by incorporating Share Our Strength’s Great American Bake Sale into her company’s business plan, holding countless successful bake sales and cause marketing promotions through Cookie Central, and volunteering to help others with their Great American Bake Sales.

She uses Cookie Central’s website to recruit and support Great American Bake Sales across the country, runs promotions and donates a percentage of sales, was one of the founding members of Great American Bake Sale’s social media community, ‘Bake Sale Neighborhood,’ and still volunteers her time answering questions and offering encouragement online to people holding Great American Bake Sales. She recently hosted the first Great American Golf Tournament and raised more than $6,500 in one day.

“I believe that a community that helps one another is a community that thrives, and that by bringing the issue of childhood hunger to the forefront for my company, my family, and my community, I can make a difference,” says Gorham of the award. “It’s an absolute honor to be a part of this organization that’s building the bridge that will close the gap between the food that’s out there and the children who need it.”

The Habit Burger Grill, Irvine, California:
Share Our Strength’s Local Corporate Partner Leadership Award

Habit Burger Grill has partnered with Share Our Strength in southern California for the past five years. Two years ago, the fast-growing restaurant company started donating a percentage of opening-day sales to Share Our Strength. The company educates its employees about childhood hunger and Share Our Strength, and makes sure that they spread the word to their customers.

And the company’s president and chief executive officer, Russ Bendel, readily speaks on Share Our Strength’s behalf at industry functions, encouraging other companies to get involved. All this landed the 50-unit company this year’s Local Corporate Partner Award.

Additionally, Bryan Voltaggio, chef-owner of VOLT in Frederick, Maryland, and the Share Our Strength’s 2010 Chef/Restaurateur of the Year, presented Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley with the 2011 Humanitarian of the Year Award.

“I’ve been a proud supporter of Share Our Strength for many years and am especially honored to be presenting this award to Governor O’Malley for his commitment to end childhood hunger in my home state,” Voltaggio says. “Governor O’Malley has inspired me to commit even more to this cause and has set a powerful example to me and my entire team at VOLT.”

Additional award winners are, in alphabetical order by first name:

  • Amanda Hite, Founder, The Talent Revolution, Ketucky: Share Our Strength’s Advocate of the Year (tie)
  • Arkansas No Kid Hungry Campaign, Little Rock, Arkansas: No Kid Hungry State Partnership Award
  • Barbie Flores, Anaheim, California: Share Our Strength’s Individual Rookie of the Year Award
  • Bill Sullivan, Orlando, Florida: Share Our Strength’s Taste of the Nation Leadership Award
  • Family League of Baltimore City: No Kid Hungry Leadership Award
  • Food Network: Share Our Strength’s Great Oak Award
  • Hickory Farms: Share Our Strength’s Excellence in Corporate Leadership Award
  • Hunger Free Colorado: Share Our Strength’s Innovator of the Year
  • Jimmy Dean: Share Our Strength’s Organizational Rookie of the Year Award
  • John Woods, Cape Elizabeth, Maine: Share Our Strength’s Advocate of the Year (tie)
  • Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley: Share Our Strength’s Humanitarian of the Year

For more information about Share Our Strength, its work to end childhood hunger by 2015 or any of its programs, visit

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