LeAnne Notabartolo's love for food and community outreach led her to become an advocate for hunger. She shares with us how Las Vegas Restaurant Week is an opportunity for both food lovers and restaurants to make a difference.
1. How did you learn about Three Square? I have been involved with charities fighting food insecurity all of my adult life. Everyone has a charitable cause that they support and feeding others has always been mine. When I worked with The Pampered Chef, I was appointed as the local liaison, and my volunteering and involvement grew from there. I took a "hard hat" tour of Three Square while it was being built, and I was blown away by the projected plans to help our community. And I have to say, everything that was shared with me that day has come to pass and SO much more!
2. What is your role in Restaurant Week? In the past, I have been on the committee for the annual kick-off event and I always assist with the restaurant briefings, which consists of me visiting participating restaurants at a predetermined time and educating the staff on how to make Restaurant Week work for them, the community and Three Square. I am passionate about doing community outreach, and I think it shows. I'm flattered that some of my favorite restaurants request that I personally do their briefings each year.
3. How did you get involved in volunteering with us for Las Vegas Restaurant Week? Three Square asked and I said yes. It's really that simple. I have found through my career path that sometimes all you have to do is ask and most often people will respond positively.
4. What are some ways that you get restaurants excited about participating? By the time I get to the briefing, the restaurants have already decided to participate and it is my job to get the staff excited. Frequently, I see returning waitstaff and they help spread the message. I also come armed with facts and statistics about the hunger problem in our community. Unfortunately, most people don't realize how many food insecure Las Vegas families exist. As an example, more than 65% of Clark County School District students rely on free or reduced-price lunch. I love to tell people about Three Square's Backpack for Kids Program, as well as the food bank's other outreach strategies. Oftentimes, when people hear that it is not just them working toward a solution, they feel more empowered to jump in and help. "Many hands make light work" is more than just a saying, it is the truth. When an individual hears that their good work is being backed by their employer, major corporations, and several other volunteers and participants like me, it makes them feel like they are part of the solution and we ALL want to feel like we are a contributing factor.
5. What kind of restaurants would you like to see participate? (ex: Asian, vegan, Middle Eastern, etc.) I love food and I love to try new places, so I am up for just about anything. Seeing our locally owned restaurants, not just the big chains and hotel restaurants, participating is truly fantastic and I'd welcome more of that. I'd positively swoon, however, if Guy Savoy or Joël Robuchon contributed a prix-fixe menu for Restaurant Week.
6. How do you explain Las Vegas Restaurant Week to someone who isn't familiar with the concept? Help out by dining out. I ask them if they enjoy trying new places and I ask them how they would feel if part of their dining dollars went to feed someone else. Then, I tell them that by dining at a participating restaurants, up to $6 of their purchase price is donated to Three Square. I share with them that Three Square can provide three meals for every $1 donated. By dining out at a partner restaurant whose contribution is $5, 15 meals would be generated for food insecure individuals in our community. Next, I provide them with the website helpoutdineoutlv.org and tell them to pick a place or three to try. During Restaurant Week, I make plans with my husband, my son and my friends to hit up as many places for lunch and dinner as possible, and I encourage them to do the same. Restaurant Week is a great opportunity to try someplace you haven't been before, revisit a place you love or have a get-together with friends to help our community.
7. Is there anything else you would like to add? Three Square serves more than 164,000 of my neighbors and community members each month. The least I can do is give a little of my time. Time is precious to all of us and I don't always have as much time to donate as I'd like, so my husband and I make monthly contributions. It's easy to make a donation to the food bank and it can be done with just a phone call or a visit to ThreeSquare.org. People in Las Vegas aren't only hungry during Restaurant Week or during the holidays, they are hungry all-year long. A donation of a few dollars a month can make a huge impact on someone else's life.
The face of hunger is a child who can't focus in class because there isn't enough to eat at home; a senior citizen living on a fixed income who has to choose between paying their rent and buying food; a single parent who works multiple jobs but can barely make ends meet. This is our town, these are our neighbors and our community.