Why should anyone in America be hungry? It’s probably not a question most restaurateurs ask themselves on a regular basis. As an industry, we are focused on making beautiful meals that please a range of tastes, and giving the best service possible to inspire return visits. It’s why we exist. So it’s not hard to see why that question wouldn’t occur to many of us on a daily basis. This is why people like Jimmy Buckner are so important to our community.
Restaurateur Jimmy Buckner understands both sides of this story, and uses one to inspire the other. Buckner and his partners own the very popular Latitude 35, downtown Knoxville’s number one destination for food, sports and entertainment. He is also Executive Director for The Scarecrow Foundation, a 501c3 organization driven to help end hunger in America. The Scarecrow Foundation doesn’t compete with other hunger agencies – it supports them.
Their vision to provide “Entertainment With Purpose” brings together venues and partners across communities, providing compelling events that attract a diverse audience, gets them involved, and supports charity organizations with donations and volunteerism. All of these efforts support hunger agencies and charities such as The Love Kitchen (an organization recognized by Oprah), Second Harvest Food Bank, and Mobile Meals.
For example, their current event, Scarecrow Madness, focuses on the March Madness theme. Over 80 different venues and sponsors in the Knoxville area are participating, which was no easy feat to coordinate. It speaks to the dedication of not only Buckner and his team, but also to the local area restaurants and businesses that are getting involved.
“We have a long range vision here, and we know that this isn’t a problem we can fix overnight,” explained Buckner. “But in just three years we’ve already accomplished so much and made a big difference.”
The foundation uses its knowledge of and connections within the foodservice and hospitality industry to create these exciting and appealing events, with board members such as National Restaurant Association Past President Bill Regas and leading East Tennessee restaurateur Randy Burleson.
“Everyone is busy, but still looking for something fun to do,” said Buckner. “We create these fun engaging events that people want to attend, then they are there and they get involved and get motivated and it just keeps growing that way.” These events ultimately support local businesses and interests, as well as the charity organizations at the heart of them. The foundation also regularly works with bands and artists, attracting an even more diverse following for the organization. “We do a lot of cross marketing with restaurants, media outlets and the general public.”
These cross-marketing efforts can be seen in the media and sponsor coverage for events such as Scarecrow Madness through www.hiphopforhunger.com, as well as through partnerships. Over the past three years, the University of Tennessee continues to support the Scarecrow Foundation via The School of Advertising and PR, MBA and Business College, and the Journalism College. Their public relations campaign management class has contributed by designing the inaugural campaign for the Scarecrow Foundation, the first of many efforts the university is partnering on.
If you want to learn more about The Scarecrow Foundation, or get your restaurant involved, you can visit www.scarecrowfoundation.org.
Final thoughts from Buckner we can all live by: “If you enjoy what you do and believe in what you do, it becomes part of your life.”