When The Blind Pig Supper Club served its first dinner in an old farmhouse six years ago, with family-style tables sprawling through the rooms and out across the porch, it marked the start of more than five years of edgy, eloquently executed, multicourse dinners raising money for local charities and farmers. Lately, however, founder Mike Moore has been narrowing the organization’s focus.
“We decided that we wanted to do a campaign in the first of this year that would focus on hunger in our area,” he explains. “It’s just ironic how many people can’t afford food in a city known as Foodtopia that has so many great restaurants and so much great locally grown food.”
A 2015 study by the Washington, D.C.-based Food Research and Action Center ranked the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area the 28th hungriest in the nation, with 20 percent of families struggling to put sufficient food on the table. Those numbers have inspired Moore and the Blind Pig crew to make what difference they can through a new campaign called Rally Around the Family. Those numbers have inspired Moore and the Blind Pig crew to make what difference they can through a new campaign called Rally Around the Family.
“Every dinner, we’re setting a goal to purchase one large season CSA for a family in need, so we’re essentially adopting one family per dinner,” Moore says. In community-supported agriculture, a family pays upfront for a regular share of the crops a small, local farm harvests each week. A typical CSA, he notes, can cost as much as $800 a year. “That money will go directly to a farm to pay for food for a family.”
So besides helping people in need, the campaign “helps startup farms in our area.” It costs a lot to get a small-scale farm off the ground, says Moore, and as government subsidies that once supported small, independent farmers are now increasingly funneled to factory-farming operations, farmers must develop new guerrilla marketing strategies on top of the already backbreaking work they do. “A startup farm really counts on CSA sales to supply them with steady income and profit,” he notes.
Accordingly, Moore has chosen Just Ripe Farm, a new 5-acre enterprise in Brevard, to supply the produce for the first family chosen. All told, Blind Pig’s regular dinner series aims to purchase CSAs for six to eight families over the next six months.
That modest number highlights the challenges implicit in providing farm-fresh, wholesome food for families on the fringe. One of the parameters in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s definition of “food insecurity” concerns the availability of fresh food. “This isn’t like boxed cereals and fortified rice and that kind of food-shelter stuff, which you and I both know can be very unhealthy,” Moore observes. “This is local, fresh food like chefs would find in their walk-in refrigerators.”
But good deeds aren’t necessarily easy to accomplish, and this seeming virtue puts another kink in the chain, since many families in need lack even the basic amenities for cooking. To identify families that could benefit the most from the supper club’s campaign, Blind Pig has partnered with MANNA FoodBank, Bounty & Soul and the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement.
“They’ve been really helpful when it comes to finding individuals and families in need,” says Moore. “There’s no ultimate directory of who needs food, no single identifying factor for poverty in our communities.”
Rally Around the Family’s first dinner is slated for Saturday, Jan. 21. Titled “Happy Days,” the ’50s-themed dinner will feature chefs Ivan Candido of The Admiral, Sam Etheridge of Ambrozia Bar & Bistro, A.J. Pitner of Union Jack’s English Pub, J.T. DeBrie of Intentional Swine, Josh Armbruster of The Blind Pig, and Jill Wasilewski of Ivory Road Café & Kitchen. Tickets ($65) are available via the website; the location and menu are kept secret until the last minute.
The organizers also plan to invite many of the families to the dinners. “Not to point them out or anything,” clarifies Moore, “but just to let them see who we are and what we do, and hopefully show them that we want them to be a part of it.”
For more information on the Rally Around the Family campaign, or to become a Blind Pig member, visit theblindpigsupperclub.com.