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Chefs Make Change: Mario Batali

Mario Batali is the mastermind behind some of the country’s top restaurants, but his passion is helping kids eat well at home. Learn about the Mario Batali Foundation’s vital work.

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The Mario Batali Foundation wants to encourage kids to dream big—just like its namesake chef does—by ensuring that they are well read, well fed and well cared for. The MBF works with multiple charities and initiatives; recently, it teamed up with the Food Bank for New York City and co-developed the Community CookShop pilot program, designed to teach parents and children how to prepare simple, healthy recipes with ingredients from food pantries and soup kitchens. mariobatalifoundation.org.

His Motivation “Unlike curing cancer or heart disease, we already know how to beat hunger: food. We produce enough to feed everyone in this country, plus Canada and Mexico, but much of it goes uneaten or is simply wasted. It’s a question of distribution and incentivizing, getting food out of the bin and onto the plate.”

Powerful Experience “Working at the Food Bank with my kids is an eye-opener. The face of hunger isn’t the bum on the street drinking Sterno; it’s the working poor. They don’t look any different, they don’t behave any differently, they’re not really any less educated. They are incredibly less privileged, and that’s it. And they have to work a lot longer and harder than more privileged people do.”

The Value of Teaching Cooking Skills “Just because you eat doesn’t mean you eat smart. It’s hard to beat a $1.99 wing pack of three at a fast-food restaurant—it’s so cheap—but that wing pack isn’t feeding anyone, it’s just pushing hunger back an hour.”

Why Gnarly Carrots Rule “We need to figure out a ‘harvest system’ to collect the produce that stores don’t put out for customers to buy because it’s not perfect looking. Frankly, the stuff left to rot in the storeroom is more beautiful to me than the perfect carrot. I’m a gnarly carrot kind of guy.”

His Recipes for F&W “They use winter food-bank staples. Food banks might get cornmeal in a box that’s close to its expiration date, or greens that aren’t so shiny anymore but are still good. We’re talking about what’s available in North America at a reasonable price.”

Video Video: Mario Batali in the Kitchen

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