Don’t ever let anyone tell you Baton Rouge doesn’t have some truly top-flight culinary talent. The recent Baton Rouge Epicurean Society’s premiere fundraiser and signature event, Féte Rouge, showcased some amazing dishes!

Dozens of local chefs donated their time and considerable abilities to the food and wine tasting, which raised money to combat juvenile diabetes, and they really knocked themselves out with creations I wish we saw more often on local menus.

Among my many favorites were: Ancho Barbecue Pork Carnita With Spicy Costa Rican Salsa from chef Sonny Creel of Drusilla Catering; Hawaiian Tuna Tartar from chef Austin Harrell of Mansurs on the Boulevard; and Alligator Osso Bucco from The Crowne Plaza’s chef Scott Duplantis, who took home a best-in-show award for that inventive, Cajun twist on an Italian classic.

Truly, though, all the dishes were excellent, and walking from table to table among the gorgeous trays of designer food, I was struck more than once during the evening by how bountiful the offerings and how privileged so many of us are to be able to partake in such extravagant feasts and festivities, whether they be for fun or for charitable causes.

Because so many others among us are not. Indeed, an estimated 114,000 people in the 11-parish capital region struggle with hunger on a daily basis, according to the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank. That means they don’t have enough money to put three square meals on the table.

Meanwhile, Louisiana’s children ranked 49th out of 50 in the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s recent Kids Count index, which measures the well-being of children around the country, and one in six people in East Baton Rouge parish lives below the federal poverty limit.

Those statistics are particularly relevant this month, which is Hunger Action Month nationwide. Locally, LPB, the LSU AgCenter, the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and The Advocate have combined efforts to draw attention to the problem of hunger in our community and provide information and education to help eradicate it.

Each entity is working in its own way to raise awareness of the issue among the general population, and to specifically educate those in need about how they can stretch their food dollars, where they can find affordable yet nutritious food items, and how they

can start their own community gardens, among other things.

Local businesses and organizations are pitching in too, contributing or hosting special events throughout the month. Today, for instance, members of the Louisiana Rice Growers Association are at the State Capitol donating 10,000 pounds of rice to the Food Bank.

For three days next week, Voo Doo Barbecue at Drusilla will donate a percentage of its sales to the Food Bank. And on Sept. 23, Zapp’s Potato Chips will donate a portion of its Zapp’s Who Dat! Potato Chip sales back to the Food Bank.

In a public service announcement airing on LPB, Louisiana’s first lady, Supriya Jindal, encourages everyone to consider how they can best help. One way is to make a donation to the big orange barrels you might have noticed around the city.

Or you can participate in one of the many food drives that are going on in local churches, schools and community groups. You might also consider volunteering with the Food Bank or helping to start a community garden in a needy neighborhood

It’s also worthwhile just to talk up the cause with children, friends and family. Heightened awareness can make a huge difference. We all need to be more cognizant of the fact that hunger isn’t just a Third World problem but that it exists right here, in the midst of such abundance and prosperity.