Batali, Bon Jovi Boost Gala as Sandy Strains Food Banks

Six months after Hurricane Sandy, Margarette Purvis is still trying to get food to the hungry.

The president and chief executive officer of the Food Bank for New York City says buying and sourcing enough to distribute into her network is still a top priority for her organization. It delivered more than 10 million pounds of food between October and March at a cost of $12 million.

“Hunger didn’t take a break because we got hit by Sandy,” Purvis said in a phone interview. “We would not have been able to cover our expenses if it weren’t for the aid from state and federal government.”

The nonprofit hopes it will get a financial boost tonight at its 30th anniversary Can Do 2013 Awards Dinner and gala at Manhattan’s Cipriani Wall Street. Purvis wants to raise more than $1 million. The evening’s honorees include restaurateur Mario Batali and his wife, Susan Cahn, who have supported the bank for more than a decade.

Other honorees include Food Bank founder Kathy Goldman and ABC News’s Diane Sawyer with the network’s “Hidden America” team.

Stars from the worlds of entertainment and food will be on hand, such as former R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe and “Top Chef” head judge Tom Colicchio. Actor Tony Shalhoub will be the evening’s emcee, and rock band leader Jon Bon Jovi will provide the entertainment.

“Because it’s our 30th anniversary gala, we hope we raise a lot of money,” Purvis said. “We really need it, and the city’s still hurting.”

Higher Demand

Many hunger-relief organizations in the New York area are coping with higher demand since Hurricane Sandy hit on Oct. 29. The Community FoodBank of New Jersey had to divert its food-relief program to Sandy victims in the week following the storm, according to Kathleen DiChiara, the nonprofit’s president and CEO.

City Harvest, which provides goods to about 600 emergency-aid programs, distributed an extra 6 million pounds of food between October and March, said Kate MacKenzie, the nonprofit’s director of policy and government relations.

“We are recovering from the surge in demand, but it’s going to resurge when the schools close and kids need a free lunch,” said Kate Lombardo, executive director of the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County in Stamford, Connecticut.

Purvis said money raised also helps the New York bank’s general relief programs such as a free service to prepare tax returns. The deadline will be extended, especially for Sandy victims who need more time to file. The Food Bank has filed tax refunds totaling $24 million for residents who live in Sandy-affected areas.

Disaster Planning

The organization is developing a new plan for responding to natural disasters so that it can quickly get food to pantries as well as those affected by a storm.

“We’re already planning for the next disaster,” Purvis said. “We’re creating a new playbook to change what it means to be prepared.”

The Food Bank for New York City’s Can Do 2013 Awards Dinner is tonight at Cipriani, 55 Wall St., at 6 p.m. Information:

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