Ask the Strumbellas and they’ll tell you it wasn’t that long ago they were playing events like this one: chefs in food stalls, hungry patrons, booze. “It literally feels like we’re back at a farmer’s market,” lead singer Simon Ward says with a laugh of the band’s early gigs. Sitting in a green room one recent evening, the Canadian band did indeed just play a pristine acoustic set of hits including “Carry My Body” and “Shovels and Dirt,” and for a food-loving crowd no less.
But the circumstances are decidedly different. Now with a fervent following and the platform to give back, the six-piece band was in town for Chicago’s Taste of the Nation event on behalf of Share Our Strengths’ No Kid Hungry campaign in conjunction with Citi. In addition to the music, some of the city’s most acclaimed chefs and mixologists were also onhand offering up everything from fresh mozzarella and delectable scallops to jalapeno-infused margaritas.
Citi tapped music sponsorship firm MAC Presents to enlist musical acts like the Strumbellas but the Chicago event was one of 20 Taste the Nation Culinary events around the country. Folk-rockers Judah and the Lion performed at Taste the Nation in Washington DC back in April and viral sensations Us the Duo gigged at the LA stop in June. According to Jennifer Breithaupt, Global Consumer Chief Marketing Officer at Citi, bringing the entertainment and culinary worlds together for a philanthropic effort was extremely effective. “Through our numerous entertainment access platforms we are able to tap into these resources and capitalize on the artists’ social media influences to create buzz, promote ticket sales and raise awareness for the No Kid Hungry campaign,” she said.
“Partnering with artists who have a devoted following and want to give back was a great way to amplify Citi and No Kid Hungry’s message,” adds Jessica Beutler, EVP, Client Services for MAC Presents. “Plus, we’re thrilled when the artist ends up integrating that message into their performance – Judah & The Lion’s “No Kid Hungry” freestyle at the DC event remains a highlight of this year’s program.”
With the alarming reality that 1 in 6 children in America are living in households without consistent access to food, events such as this are essential. To date, No Kid Hungry has provided 500 million meals to needy children. Being able to gain support not only from the culinary world but the music one as well is a prime way to spread awareness notes Jill Davis, SVP of Corporate Partnerships for Share Our Strength. “It brings those two worlds together for social impact,” she says.
For a band like the Strumbellas, who Ward says strive to perform at a charity event every month, being able to give back while doing what they love is ideal. “You go through your twenties and you want to change the world. And then you hit your thirties and you have a family and you have to get a job and pay your rent and it gets harder to be such a romantic about doing good things,” the singer says. “So when our band got to a point where we were well-known enough that people were asking us to do charity stuff we instantly jumped on it.”