Tag Archives: Connecticut Food Bank

Make Music Feed

Four days earlier, Hurricane Isaias had ripped through Westport. Much of the town was without power.

But a pair of 10-year-olds — Isabella and Alexander Mariani — and their musician friends were undaunted.

After being home for several months, with recitals and concerts canceled by COVID-19, they’d planned a small, socially distanced live concert.

This was not just about them and their parents, either. They were raising money for the Connecticut Food Bank.

Their mom — Carole Chinn Mariani — had called friends she met through the Suzuki Music School of Westport, when Isabella and Alexander had started playing violin and piano.

Bottom row (from left): Owen and Charlotte Naughton, Madeleine and Maria Stiber. Top: Sage and Hugh Kramer, Alexander and Isabella Mariani, Jade and Grant Zimmerman.
(Photo/Carole Chinn Mariani)

Seven of the 10 children are still with Suzuki. The program often tells students, “you should practice every day you eat.”

Especially today, that saying reminds them how fortunate they are to worry only about practicing music, not where their next meal is coming from.

So they decided that the “Make Music Feed” show must go on.

Due to the pandemic, performers and attendees were limited to 5 families, spaced 6 feet apart on the Marianis’ front lawn.

Neighbors and passersby were invited to enjoy the concert from similarly socially distanced spots.

Most acts – who ranged from beginners to more advanced, in elementary and middle school — were soloists. Their selections included classical, pop and Broadway.

An original song — “Waiting in the Dark” — was composed by Sage Kramer.  It was the theme song for a film she, Isabella, Alexander and other friends created during a Westport Filmmakers Inc. camp.

Participants in a triolet wore masks and distanced themselves. Pianists used hand sanitizer before and after using the keyboard. Vocalists used disposable mic covers.

Check out the talent here:

Isabella, Alexander and friends hope the concert will spread far beyond the lawn. They’d like the word to get out on social media, so people to contribute to their cause (click here).

“It’s a good feeling to think of how happy the other families might feel to get food from the money we raised,” Isabella says.

Her mother adds, “We invite all young musicians to take the Make Music Feed challenge by hosting their own micro, socially distanced benefit concert, either live or virtually. Children can make a difference!”

CT Food Bank Seeks Good Neighbors

Alert — and very civic-minded — “06880” reader Mary Lynn Halland is a consultant to the Connecticut Food Bank. One of the largest centralized sources of emergency food in the state, it plays an active role in the needy (and sometimes unseen) corners of Fairfield County.

For years, Mary Lynn’s Stamford neighborhood has participated in a “Weekly Neighborhood Food Give.” It’s not the snappiest name, but it works.

Each week at the same time, people put food donations in a shoebox-size Tupperware bin (provided by the CT Food Bank) near their mailbox or door. A neighbor picks up the food, then stores it someplace safe or dry until the Food Bank collects it (usually once a month).

It takes just 20 minutes a week to make the pick-up — and it can be done by children and teenagers as well as adults.

Mary Lynn figures if it works in Stamford, why not Westport?

But she doesn’t know where to start. So she’s asking “06880” readers for help.

If you’ve got an idea for a local neighborhood or condo association that wants to pilot the project — or if you want to help organize one — Mary Lynn wants to hear from you.

Email her: marylynn@crny.net. Call her: 917-657-0943. Or click “Comments,” and let everyone in town know you and your neighborhood are ready to help.


Do you like New England clam chowder?  Perhaps you prefer Manhattan chowder?

Well, what about Westport chowder?

Or, as the organizers of this Saturday’s Chowdafest (February 4, 11 a.m.-4 p.m.) call it: chowda.

In just 4 years, the annual event — a fundraiser for the Connecticut Food Bank — has grown from a couple of hundred Westport people at the Unitarian Church to a few thousand (from throughout Fairfield County) at Bedford Middle School.

The format is perfect: a chowder chowda, soup and bisque competition between restaurants. Everyone judges.

Da Pietro's always draws a crowd at Chowdafest.

For $6 ($2 for those under 12) you get a spoon, ballot and pencil. Then — life is hard — you sample over 30 different offerings from 23 restaurants. They cover the coast, from Stamford to Mystic, making it the largest Chowdafest in New England.

But the local guys do fine. Last year’s winners included Mansion Clam House and Southport Brewing Company.

Westport restaurants competing this year include the Boathouse, Blue Lemon, Bobby Q’s, Da Pietro’s, Dunville’s, Mansion, River House and Tavern on Main.

Bobby Q's is a Chowdafest fixture.

There are 3 categories: Classic New England Clam Chowder, Creative Chowder (anything else), and Soup/Bisque. New this year: a blind taste test among chefs, and a “Critics’ Choice” given to the overall favorite.

Because it’s held the day before the Souper Super Bowl, volunteers and servers wear football jerseys, eye black and referee outfits. Sacred Heart University’s marching band provides entertainment.

It’s a great family event. Kids particularly enjoy receiving chef hats, stickers andtemporary tattoos. They take their voting privilege seriously (a good lesson this election year, no?).

“What’s cool is that Sam and Suzy Sixpack — all of us — determine the winner,” says head chowdahead Jim Keenan. “It’s not a panel of people who don’t represent us.”

In just 3 years, the money raised has funded over 30,000 meals.

Hopefully, some of them were chowder chowda based.

(For more information click here, call 203-216-8452, or email chowdafest@optonline.net)

Cookin’ For A Cause

No one has ever confused bbq with health food.

But this month the Downtown Merchants Association invites Westporters to cook for a cause.  Teams of 2-4 backyard chefs can enter any of 3 categories — chicken, ribs and chef’s choice.   Winners receive a prizes — and the money raised from each team’s $100 entry fee is donated the Connecticut Food Bank.

blog - bbqThe event — set for the Levitt Pavilion — is part of the 2nd annual Blues Views and BBQ Festival.  “Cookin’ for a Cause” setup begins at 6 a.m. on Saturday, September 26.  Judging is at 3 p.m., leaving plenty of time to get the meat and sauce just right.  (Charcoal or wood heat sources only; no gas, electric grills or open pits.  And teams supply their own food.)

All day Saturday and Sunday there’s a craft beer showcase, activities for kids and families, a food court — and of course music.  What’s bbq without blues?

So forget the calories.  The hell with cholesterol.  It’s time to start cookin’ some meat for a cause.

(For more information, including an application form, click here.)