Photo: Ken Goodman
Hosted by Mario Batali and Michael Symon, and presented by Bank of America at Cipriani Wall Street, Food Bank’s Can Do awards dinner is instrumental in providing support for the millions of New Yorkers who rely on Food Bank and our network of over 1,000 charities throughout the five boroughs. Thanks to the generosity and support of our friends and partners, Can Do 2017 raised 10 million meals for New Yorkers in need!
This year’s star-studded event took place on Wednesday, April 19. Honorees spoke about the power of legacy in their fight against hunger, and what it means to set an example of giving—and action—for the next generation. Honoree Sultana Ocasio, who accepted the award on behalf of The Muslim Women’s Institute of Research and Development, dedicated the award to her daughter, whose future, she stated, gives her work added purpose.
In one of the most thrilling and inspiring moments of the evening, Mario Batali welcomed very special surprise guest President Bill Clinton to the podium. The room erupted in a standing ovation before quieting to hear the former president’s poignant remarks. President Clinton spoke briefly but powerfully to the scourge of hunger in our city and our nation, and applauded Food Bank For New York City’s continued service of our neighbors.
Honoree Lauren Bush Lauren, who offered a keen perspective on the meaning of legacy during her acceptance speech, urged the audience to be mindful of fellow New Yorkers who struggle to put food on the table. On stage, Lauren was introduced by Lydell and Justin, two students from East Bronx Academy for the Future who intern at their school’s campus pantry. The teens thanked Lauren on behalf of all New York City children who are helped by campus pantries such as those Lauren’s organization, FEED, sponsors. She closed with an emotional thank you to the campus pantry, adding that she hopes their work together will change the world from one “that needs FEED into a world that is well fed and nourished”.
Father of four Idrees Karim also shared some heart-felt words about the campus pantry, describing it and the work of Food Bank as “a blessing to his family.” Honoree Tanya Fields, mother of six children and Founder & Executive Director of The BLK ProjeK, accepted the award on behalf of underserved women who have ever been “told they could not” establish a legacy for themselves that would make their families proud. In an empowering speech that drove home the impact of legacy on communities, Tanya shared that she comes from a history of women who believed in “…saving ourselves when everybody else forgot about us.”
In addition to a silent auction, the night included live bidding on items such as a luxury suite at Billy Joel’s sold-out concert at Madison Square Garden, graciously donated by Presenting Sponsor Bank of America; a once-in-a-lifetime dinner by Mario Batali, David Chang, and Michael Symon; and a three day on-set experience with Andrew Zimmern on his hit show Bizarre Foods. Grammy-winning recording artist Estelle then took to the stage to close out the evening, performing three songs and bringing everyone in the ballroom to their feet.
The evening’s success was made possible thanks to the leadership of Chairs Scott Feldman and Jodisue Rosen, Honorary Chairs Mario Batali and Susan Cahn, and Silent Auction Chairs Christina Grdovic and Phillip Baltz. A special thanks to the night’s Presenting Sponsor, Bank of America, and event sponsors Delta Airlines and Lavazza.