© Patrick McMullan
Natalie Portman and Tom Colicchio at Hungry in America fundraiserI’m always impressed when someone can take a scary bad situation and provide hope—which is what happened at Sunday night’s Hungry in America fund-raiser at Colicchio & Sons in Manhattan. Hungry in America is a documentary (out next year) and multimedia campaign to raise awareness of the terrible problem of hunger in this country. According to Feeding America (a hunger-relief charity), one in eight households relied on emergency food assistance last year, and 17 million children didn’t know where their next meal was going to come from. Future numbers will almost certainly be higher.

Here’s why there’s hope. In the 1970s, the U.S. went a long way towards solving the problem of hunger (according to the team behind Hungry in America). And President Obama has pledged to end childhood hunger by 2015.

Here's why else there's hope: Hungry in America involves an impressive stable of people. Tom Colicchio, who hosted the event, is an executive producer of the project, and his award-winning filmmaker wife, Lori Silverbush, co-directed the documentary. Natalie Portman was there: She co-hosted the fund-raiser (Jake Gyllenhaal was there, too, to support the cause). When he wasn’t having a long, animated conversation with Gyllenhaal, Colicchio was at the restaurant’s wood-burning oven, preparing items from T&C’s Tap Room menu, including awesome bone marrow topped with anchovies. Alongside him were Boston’s Michael Schlow, who served ponzu-glazed tuna sashimi and tempura bits, and Rocco diSpirito, who passed out short ribs with truffled taro root. I’m not sure if Portman sampled any of the food—she’s a vegan—but she did spend time near the oven with the Spotted Pig’s Ken Friedman, discussing the fact that his newest place, the Breslin, had a surprising number of vegetarian dishes that she could eat when she was there last week.

And more hopeful news from the NYC event: Some 300-plus people were there, raising $200,000 for Hungry in America. The next fund-raiser is in Los Angeles at Craft on February 28, where Nancy Silverton and Suzanne Goin will cook, and people like Ben Affleck are expected to attend; tickets are still available.