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Local chefs host volunteer event to prepare healthy meals for Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee

August 10, 2015

August 10, 2015

For additional information,
Contact: Amanda Shell Jennings
Moxley Carmichael
(865) 255-0661


Local chefs will host a volunteer event at the Knoxville Convention Center to prepare hundreds of healthy, premade meals for hungry families across East Tennessee at the first-ever “Tomato Crush.”

The event to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee will be held in the Convention Center’s industrial kitchen on Saturday, Aug. 15, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Volunteers will assist in preparing fresh tomatoes for processing into a red sauce to be used in a variety of dishes.

“We wanted to provide families with a versatile, healthy option to use in preparing their daily meals, and this red sauce can be used in a variety of different dishes,” said Chris Moore, executive chef for the Knoxville Convention Center. “When you buy marinara sauce, it is full of unhealthy sugar. We will use tomatoes and sweeten the dish with caramelized onions for a healthier alternative.”

The Convention Center’s Moore, Sous Chef David Jackson and Food and Beverage Manager Rachel McCoig will host the event. University of Tennessee Medical Center Chef Mark McKinney, Sysco Knoxville Chef Warren Davis and US Foods Chefs Ed Butler and Jonathan Wells will assist with training volunteers in making the sauce. Volunteers are invited to bring locally grown or canned tomatoes to donate to Second Harvest.

“We need volunteers of all ages and skill levels,” McKinney said. “No culinary experience is required. There are many different tasks, and several chefs to help supervise. The ‘Tomato Crush’ event is a great way to learn more from experts about nutrition and tips for healthy cooking and give back to the community.”

The idea for the event came 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; Gail Root, programs director for Second Harvest; and James Bosi, Sysco manager of business development.

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 gand sugars that lead to obesity and other health problems.

The Knoxville Convention Center and the other agencies involved in this effort are regular contributors 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.

“Many families who are food insecure don’t have regular access to healthy fruits and vegetables and are therefore at risk for health problems associated with poor nutrition,” said Elaine Streno, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee.  “Through events like this and our Food Rescue program, we can better supplement our regular food distribution with freshly prepared meals that are easy, healthy and nutritious for families.”

Once prepared, the meals will be vacuum sealed and frozen for distribution by Second Harvest. The meals will come with recipes and potential uses for the red sauce, as well as an online step-by-step tutorial on how to make the sauce yourself.

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. 15. 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

About SMG

 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