Andre Lemus, owner of Las Palmeras, pours a cup of soup during the Bowls for Bellies fundraiser at Hunting Hills High School on Sunday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Andre Lemus, owner of Las Palmeras, pours a cup of soup during the Bowls for Bellies fundraiser at Hunting Hills High School on Sunday. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)

Bowls for Bellies soup cook-off supports The Mustard Seed

Sixteen chefs battled to win the “Bowly Grail” in a soup cook-off that aimed to raise money for people in need.

The second-ever Bowls for Bellies event in support of The Mustard Seed’s school lunch program and hot meal program was held at Hunting Hills High School Sunday. The inaugural event was held in 2019 and hasn’t been able to return until this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jillian Vukovich, Bowls for Bellies co-ordinator, said she was thrilled to host the event once again.

“It’s awesome to have a sense of community and it’s awesome to have people together … to support a cause like this,” Vukovich said, adding the goal is for Bowls for Bellies to be an annual event.

Vukovich said her family inspired her to create the event in 2019.

“My dad was homeless when he was a kid,” she said, adding she wanted to do something in support of The Mustard Seed as well.

“I found The Mustard Seed through their hot meal program. Through working with them, I recognized there’s an enormous need for the school lunch program because there’s no government funding. Especially this year, with inflation rising and costs rising, more and more families are having a hard time feeding kids.

“We can make a difference and make sure those kids have food so they can learn properly when they’re in school.”

Laura Giesbrecht, The Mustard Seed director of operations, said events like Bowls for Bellies are crucial for the nonprofit organization.

“We actually just started 24/7 operations, so now we’ve increased the number of meals we’re serving to our guests. Events like this make all the difference in the world,” said Giesbrecht.

Most of the funds raised at Bowls for Bellies will go towards the school lunch program, but additional funds will go towards the hot meal program.

“The school lunch program is significant for families. Not only are we serving Red Deer, but we’re serving central Alberta as a whole. We’ve seen a huge increase in our numbers with the cost of food, gas and the rise in inflation,” she said.

“In March we were providing about 350 (school lunches) and now we’re up to over 550.”

Giesbrecht said The Mustard Seed is looking for volunteers to support the school lunch program by making the meals between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. on weekdays. Interested residents are asked to visit www.theseed.ca/volunteer or call 403-352-8028.



sean.mcintosh@reddeeradvocate.com

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