Chefs to cook up creativity with GoPacks

Gearing up for a major expansion that will help feed more area children, GoPacks will soon be hosting a Top Chef Challenge featuring three area chefs.

The fundraiser, a first for GoPacks, will have the chefs prepare a meal on the fly using some typical items that go home in GoPacks, which are bags of food sent home with children over weekends and school breaks.

“GoPacks has had great growth and we have the potential for more growth but we need to become self-sustaining,” said executive director Heather Warner. “Part of that effort is generating more funding.”

The GoPacks team, which formed in 2015, already provides food to all the Marietta City Schools elementary buildings and expects to be able to expand to Marietta Middle School in the fall, Warner said.

“This year, we’ve had 109 students enrolled,” she said. “We’re estimating we’ll probably add a 50 percent increase picking up the middle school.”

Forty-seven percent of the students at the middle school qualify for free or reduced lunch, she said.

“This is something we’ve really been working on because we’ll need a whole new execution plan at the middle school,” she said.

GoPacks is a nonprofit made up of a board along with 20 to 30 regular volunteers. To date, their other large-scale fundraiser has been a Partners in Education drive with area businesses, generating food and supplies. A new drive will kick off in August with the new school year. GoPacks also receives grants and donations from several area churches and organizations.

The funds raised at the April 27 Top Chef Challenge will support the expansion as well as the existing elementary program–and provide a night of fun, said Warner.

There will be culinary-themed live and silent auctions as well as the chef challenge, which will feature Tom Hickey, chef at the Lafayette Hotel; Dave Rudie, chef at the Parkersburg Country Club; and Tyson Whistler, chef at the Glenwood Retirement Community. The event will be from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Marietta Shrine Club. The cost is $30 per person, $50 per couple or $200 for a table of eight.

Whistler said he’s just learning about GoPacks and what they provide for area families, but didn’t hesitate before agreeing to take part.

“Anytime there’s an opportunity to help support local schools, it’s an obvious yes,” said Whistler, who has three children, two of whom are in elementary school. “The task itself is also going to be interesting. It will be kind of like going through your kitchen cabinets and saying ‘What can I make out of this?’ I think it will be challenging but fun.”

Warner said some staples of the GoPacks include cans of tuna, pudding cups, canned vegetables, granola bars and ravioli, all of which could be part of the challenge.

“It should be really interesting to see what they come up with,” she said.

The chefs will be part of the entertainment for the

evening, with a separate catered meal being served to guests. Another chef will judge their creations and volunteers from the audience will be asked to help with the tastings.

“There’s a very large peoples’ choice component,” said Warner. “And

then we’ll have our auctions, both with a culinary theme. It’s using food to fight food insecurity.”

If you go

¯ What: GoPacks Top Chef Challenge.

¯ When: 5:30 to 9 p.m. April 27.

¯ Where: Marietta Shrine Club.

¯ Cost: $30 per person, $50 per couple or $200 for a table of eight.

¯ Tickets: Available at The Cook’s Shop, Settlers Bank, Advantage Real Estate and NOE Office Equipment in Parkersburg.