Second Harvest Food Bank landed an influential supporter Friday, when celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck showed up with 29,000 cans of soup, including 12,000 of his own brand.
The gift, arranged by Campbell's Soup and Harris Teeter, will feed nearly 14,000 people through Second Harvest's Backpacks and Senior Box programs for kids and seniors.
Puck lauded those programs during a presentation Friday, and singled out the agency's executive director, Kay Carter, for community service.
"What you are doing for so many people out there is a miracle," said Puck, who was in Charlotte for the Harris Teeter-backed Chef's Best fundraiser for Second Harvest.
"I know we live in the greatest country in the world, yet every day we have kids and older people going to sleep without food...It is our duty to help them."
Some 415,000 people - more than a third of them children - live in poverty in the 19-county region served by Second Harvest.
That's an increase of 15,000 children over two years ago, explaining why the Backpack Program for kids is the agency's fastest-growing initiative.
The program gives low-income kids backpacks filled with food to take home on weekends, when they don't have access to free or reduced meals at school.
Carter said the food bank was thrilled to have someone of Puck's caliber take a stand in the fight against hunger.
Puck drew a full house at the Chef's Best event Friday at the Charlotte Convention Center, attracting 800 people. That's 200 above last year's fundraiser.
Harris Teeter, the event's title sponsor, arranged for Puck's visit through contacts with Campbell's Soup, and also requested a donation, resulting in the 29,000 cans of soup.
"It's huge. I was amazed," Carter said. "It's so generous for someone like chef Puck to take the time to put hunger in the forefront of people's minds."
Coincidentally, Puck's visit wasn't all work.
His limousine was spotted outside Price's Chicken Coop in South End at noon on Friday. And it wasn't his first visit.
"I grew up in Austria, and we fry two things there: chicken and Wiener schnitzel," he said.
"I've been told the best fried chicken in the South is Atlanta or other cities, but Price's is so far the best fried chicken I've found."
No word on whether he tried the gizzards.