The Knoxville Convention Center is inviting volunteers to assist in the second annual “Tomato Crush” event to prepare hundreds of healthy, premade meals for hungry families across East Tennessee.
The event to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee will be held in the Convention Center’s industrial kitchen on Saturday, Aug. 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers will assist in preparing fresh tomatoes for processing into red sauce to be used in a variety of dishes. Volunteers also are invited to bring locally grown or canned tomatoes to donate to Second Harvest.
“Last year, we had a great turnout to help the Knoxville Convention Center staff prepare more than 1,000 gallons of healthy, red tomato sauce for Second Harvest Food Bank,” Convention Center Executive Chef Chris Moore said. “We need volunteers of all ages and skill levels to help us exceed last year’s donation. No culinary experience is required. There are many different tasks, and several chefs are available to help supervise.”
Sysco, US Foods and local farmers have donated tomatoes, onions, garlic and other ingredients for volunteers to turn into sauce. Approximately 80 volunteers from the University of Tennessee Culinary Arts program have signed up for Saturday’s event.
The idea for the event stemmed from conversations about the lack of fresh, healthy ingredients in the local food system – and its effect on the population – among members of the Knoxville-Knox County Food Policy Council and Gail Root, programs director for Second Harvest.
This year’s Tomato Crush is being held in memory of one of the founders of the event, James Bosi, who served on the leadership of the Food Policy Council and was business development manager at Sysco. Bosi was a champion for changing the conversation about healthy eating in East Tennessee. He passed away in March after a long battle with cancer.
“James was an instrumental part of the planning and vision for this event,” Moore said. “We are sad that he is not here with us this year, but we also hope to honor his passion and drive to create access to healthy food options for all East Tennesseans by holding this event in his memory.”
Low-income families often are faced with limitations on the types of food they can afford. In general, prepackaged foods are less expensive than fresh produce but usually carry extra calories and sugars that lead to obesity and other health problems.
Last year’s event provided 32,000 meal portions of healthy, nutritional tomato sauce to food insecure families in East Tennessee. Many families who are food insecure do not have regular access to healthy fruits and vegetables and are therefore at risk for health problems associated with poor nutrition. The Tomato Crush event is designed to supplement Second Harvest’s regular food distribution with freshly prepared meals that are easy, healthy and nutritious for families.
The Knoxville Convention Center is a regular contributor to Second Harvest’s Food Rescue program, which gathers prepared and perishable foods to distribute to hunger relief agencies. The Knoxville Convention Center is the largest local contributor of prepared food to Second Harvest.
Once prepared, the sauce will be vacuum sealed and frozen for distribution by Second Harvest. The packages will come with recipes and potential uses for the red sauce.
Volunteers interested in participating in the event should meet at the Clinch Avenue entrance of the Convention Center between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Aug. 27. Participants will be taken to the industrial kitchen on the hour and half-hour. Parking is available at the Poplar Street lot and the Locust Street Garage.
If possible, interested volunteers should contact the Knoxville Convention Center in advance at 865-522-5669. Notification of participation is requested but not required.
About the Knoxville Convention Center
The Knoxville Convention Center, managed by SMG, is located in downtown Knoxville adjacent to the Sunsphere. It boasts a 120,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 30,000-square-foot divisible ballroom and 18 meeting rooms. For more information, visit http://www.knoxvilleconventioncenter.com.
Founded in 1977, SMG provides management services to more than 230 public assembly facilities including convention and exhibition centers, arenas, stadiums, theatres, performing arts centers, equestrian facilities, science centers, and a variety of other venues. With facilities across the globe, SMG manages more than 15 million square feet of exhibition space and more than 1.5 million sports and entertainment seats. As the recognized global industry leader, SMG provides venue management, sales, marketing, event booking and programming, construction and design consulting, and pre-opening services for such landmark facilities as McCormick Place & Soldier Field in Chicago, Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, Houston’s NRG Park and the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. SMG also offers food and beverage operations through its concessions, catering and special events division, SAVOR, currently servicing 130 accounts worldwide. For more information visit www.smgworld.com.