Iron Chef Michael Symon celebrated his 43rd birthday on Monday and then on Tuesday made his way to Fort Wayne, Indiana to help out a fundraiser for Blessings in a Backpack. Symon was invited to cook for supporters of the program at the Sycamore Hills Golf Glub where the fundraiser took place. Each seat cost $750 which will help provide weekend meals to an estimated 500 children.
Blessings in a Backpack is a discretionary tactic used to help feed children over the weekend while school is in session. A backpack is given to a child on Friday before the end of the school day and is filled with easy-to-prepare and ready-to-eat foods. A typical backpack will hold granola bars, peanut butter, tuna, crackers, mac & cheese, juice boxes and other non-perishable items.
Fort Wayne elementary schools decided to partner with Blessings in a Backpack in the spring of 2007. Since the launch of the pilot program it has branched out to three elementary schools within the school district. School officials told the Journal Gazette that between 1,100 and 1,200 elementary students are helped through the program.
Many celebrity chefs have backed Fort Wayne's fundraising efforts for Blessings in a Backpack. Iron Chef Michael Symon isn't the first and won't be the last. Other chefs that have supported the program include Iron Chef Cat Cora, Chicago chef Rick Bayless, and Chef Charlie Trotter.
Iron Chef Michael Symon isn't available for all charity functions. He told the Journal Gazette, "Of course you'd like to work with every charity that asks you to, but I also feel that kids, sometimes they can't always help themselves." He added that Blessings in a Backpack was a great fit saying, "It's perfect for us. It's what we love to do."
Symon's charity support has been lent to other organizations that help children including Autism Speaks, Share Our Strength, and Cleveland's Urban Community Schools.