ITHACA, NY — Tasters crammed into Ithaca High School’s cafeteria Saturday for morsels of mac n’ cheese at Foodnet Meals on Wheels fourth annual Mac n’ Cheese Bowl Saturday afternoon.

19 competitors duked it out for the crown. Red’s Place almost pulled off a full sweep, winning first place in three out of four categories: Overall, Meat and Kid’s Choice. (See the full list of winners at the end of this article.)

Photo by Jennifer Wholey.

Foodnet’s largest community engagement event, the Bowl had a record turnout of ~900 attendees, and raised $16,000 in funds in 2016. The proceeds each year go to support Foodnet’s meal delivery and nutrition services in Tompkins County, primarily to older adults and those with disabilities.

Final numbers for this year’s event will be released later this coming week, but 2017’s funds will go towards purchasing a new meal delivery van.

This year’s Bowl comes at a time when Meals on Wheels is facing potential cuts to government funding, at both the state and federal levels.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s first budget outline proposed cuts to the Community Development Block Grant Program, which many Meals on Wheels programs utilize.

In New York State, the State Office of the Aging also faces proposed cuts.

“They’re talking about eliminating one category that we depend on for getting a living wage to all of our employees,” said Foodnet’s Board Chair John Gaines. “We’re Certified Living Wage but that’s threatened now.”

The atmosphere at the Mac n’ Cheese Bowl was bright and lively despite the elephant in the room. That sense of determination was shared by Foodnet’s new Executive Director Jessica Gosa, who took over from 30-year-veteran Steve Griffin on January 1.

“I’m feeling really optimistic,” Gosa said, gesturing at the packed room. “You can look at today, look at how many people care about the organization, and have continued to care and provide their support in so many ways. We have wonderful staff, wonderful volunteers, just such a wonderful community of people who really recognize the value of what we do.”

Executive Director Jessic Gosa announces the winners. Photo by Jennifer Wholey.

Moving forward this year, she plans to renew advocacy efforts and keep the focus on continuing to provide quality services to the community. Last year, she said, Foodnet served over 160,000 meals to more than 700 older adults and others in need of service, providing safety checks, friendly visits, nutrition counseling and education in addition to meals.

“The thing that I really like about this event is that it completely fits with our mission,” Gaines said. “We can have our clients here, most of them can afford to be here. We have families here. Some of those families are families of caregivers who know what Meals on Wheels does, enabling seniors to stay in their own homes with food delivered five days a week, and somebody, a live person talking face to face with their loved one.”

Overall Winners

  1. Red’s Place
  2. Silo Food Truck
  3. Cayuga Medical Center

Meat

  1. Red’s Place
  2. Cayuga Medical Centera
  3. Bandwagon Brewery

Non-Meat

  1. Silo
  2. TIE—Ithaca Ale House and ZaZa’s Cucina
  3. Bandwagon

Kid’s Choice

  1. Red’s Place
  2. Cayuga Medical Center
  3. TIE—Rogue’s Harbor and Ithaca Ale House

Jennifer Wholey

Jennifer Wholey is a feature writer and Head of Dining Partnerships for the Ithaca Voice. Contact her at jwholey@ithacavoice.com.