MINNEAPOLIS — The Vikings organization, from rookie Anthony Barr to Head Coach Mike Zimmer and beyond, teamed up with fans, sponsors and more than 20 of the best chefs in the Twin Cities to kick hunger.
Barr, fellow rookie Teddy Bridgewater, dozens of other players, Zimmer and Vikings GM Rick Spielman signed autographs and posed for pictures as the annual Taste of the Vikings fundraiser that was held Tuesday night at The Depot, a venue that hosted the event for the first time.
The evening raised $75,000 for the Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch program that will provide approximately 225,000 meals through Second Harvest Heartland to feed children with food insecurities during summers when they don't have assistance with meals through school programs.
"It's a great way for us to bring our players together with our fans and it's really for a great cause," said Vikings Executive Vice President/Chief Marketing Officer Steve LaCroix. "The Summer Lunch program feeds thousands and thousands of kids in the summer when their needs aren't met the way they are during the school year."
One of every six Minnesota children lack consistent supplies of enough food to grow up healthfully, but Taste of the Vikings aims to increase availability to nutrition by providing unique access for fans to interact with their favorite Vikings players.
Zimmer sampled a bowl of chili served up by Vikings WR Adam Thielen, who was one of several players donning aprons and dishing up food in between autographs, pictures and conversations.
The band of country musician Chris Hawkey, a co-host of The Power Trip Morning Show on KFAN and radio producer of Vikings games, provided live music, which was a new element of the event.
Judges that included Hall of Fame DE Carl Eller determined a yuzu puff from Workshop at Union as the night's top offering.
The idea for Taste of the NFL originated when Minnesota hosted Super Bowl XXVI and has continued at every championship game since. It's also blossomed to include separate events with several NFL teams.
"When we host the Super Bowl in 2018, it will be really neat to bring it full-circle to where it first started in 1992," LaCroix said. "The Taste of the Vikings has kind of been part of it once that first Super Bowl happened. It's been great to partner with that Taste of the NFL brand."
Celebrity chef Andrew Zimmern, a three-time winner of the James Beard Award for "Best Television Personality/Host" is a board member for Taste of the NFL and will be partnering with Aramark on multiple food offerings when the new Vikings Stadium opens in 2016. Zimmern, known for his zeal for global travels, spoke passionately to attendees about the need to eliminate food insecurities.
"To know that there are children going to bed hungry at night is immoral," Zimmern said. "I can't thank you enough from the bottom of my heart, on behalf of the Vikings, Taste of the NFL, Taste of the Vikings and the board members of Taste of the NFL for helping us do so much in our own community."
About Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program
The Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program was founded in 2008 with the purpose of addressing childhood hunger in Minnesota. Through coordinated efforts with Second Harvest Heartland, the program has grown and become a success with creating more meal sites and providing additional SFSP meals for the 1 in 6 Minnesota children experiencing hunger.
About Second Harvest Heartland
Second Harvest Heartland is one of the nation's largest, most efficient and most innovative food banks. In 2013, we delivered more than 65 million meals to nearly 1,000 food shelves, pantries and other agency partner programs serving 59 counties in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Second Harvest Heartland helps relieve hunger not only by sourcing, warehousing and distributing food, but through data-driven thought leadership and community partnerships that help improve the region's larger hunger relief system. For more information, visit **2harvest.org** or call 651.484.5117.
About the Taste of the NFL
The Taste of the NFL (TNFL) is a 501c3 that exists to raise awareness and dollars for hunger relief organizations involved in tackling hunger in America. The Minneapolis-based organization conducts national and local fundraising events throughout the year to raise money to combat hunger issues facing millions of Americans. Since 1992, Taste of the NFL has distributed more than $14 million for this critically important cause and is looking forward to its 2014 event on the eve of Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. For more information, visit **www.TasteoftheNFL.com**.
Taste of the Vikings Partners
Second Harvest Heartland, E&J Gallo Wine, MillerCoors, Pepsi, Clear Channel, Unilever, UnitedHealthcare and Kare11.