Bluffton restaurants find new way to fight hunger

gmartin@islandpacket.comDecember 19, 2011 

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Several Bluffton restaurants are participating in an event to combat what authorities say is a growing hunger problem in Beaufort County.

The second annual Dine Out in Bluffton event to benefit the United Way of the Lowcountry is a way for local businesses to give back to their community, said Ryan Mikkelson, one of the event's volunteer coordinators.

"I think living in this nice of a place, it's easy to forget how many people here are struggling to put food on their tables," he said. "The fact that these restaurants stepped up says a lot about their commitment to the area."

The Kickin' Chicken, Mulberry Street Trattoria and British Open Pub are donating a portion of tonight's proceeds to the effort. Last week, Captain Woody's, Corks and Pour Richard's participated.

Joseph Sullivan of Mulberry Street Trattoria said he hadn't heard of the event until recently but is glad to participate.

"We're always willing to help give back to this community," he said. "And it never hurts to have good karma."

That event could be even larger next year, according to Bethany Marcinkowski of the United Way of the Lowcountry.

"We'd like to expand and make this county-wide, not just in Bluffton," she said. She added that last year's efforts raised several thousand dollars, all of which went toward United Way-affiliated programs that helped provide food for people in Beaufort County.

One of those programs, Hilton Head Island-based Second Helpings, is seeing greater demand for its services in recent years, according to its executive director, Peggy Warnke.

"The issue's getting substantially worse," Warnke said. "We're helping people who never thought they'd be in this position."

Warnke said her organization has helped collect and distribute about 2,600,000 pounds of food this year.

About 54 percent of students in Beaufort County receive free or reduced-price lunches, and the rate is even higher in Jasper County, she noted.

She said the proceeds from the Dine Out in Bluffton event will help her group's efforts.

"That's very nice they're doing that," Warnke said. "When people who are involved with food help the hungry, it's good to see."

Follow reporter Grant Martin at Twitter.com/LowCoBiz.

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