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3-alarm chili from firefighters top contest
Meryssa Curnett flashes a smile while she makes sure that her chili is properly stirred. - photo by JASON CAMPBELL/The Bulletin
Add a little of this, and a dash of that, and pretty soon you have something that will help feed hungry families in more ways than one.

On Saturday evening there were 20 hopefuls at the second annual Second Harvest Food Bank Chili Pot Cook-off trying their best recipe to claim the title. It is the best chili cook in Manteca – a title that not only comes with bragging rights but also helps raise funds to the largest food pantry in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.

With a packed house at the MRPS Hall helping to raise money for the organization, Saturday’s event not only benefited Second Harvest, but also increased awareness about hunger and families that can’t put enough food on the table.

“One of the things about this fundraiser that makes it special is not only the money, but the awareness that it brings as well,” said Board of Director member and chili judge Joe Christopher. “It’s a good cause, and it’s good to see so many people out here supporting it.”

And it’s an organization that has made a large impact on hunger over the course of the last year.

According to Second Harvest Director Mike Mallory, the organization has helped support more than 220 food banks in the last 12 months, and given away 9 million pounds of food during that same time frame.

Those sort of numbers are the reason that longtime non-profit staple Chuck Crutchfield joined the Board of Directors – getting the chance to see first-hand the benefits of what Second Harvest can bring to the local communities.

“There are children that go to bed hungry every night, and that affects their concentration and their ability to succeed in school,” Crutchfield said. “Seeing the dedication of the volunteers and the staffers is a great thing, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Ironically enough, it was Lathrop-Manteca Firefighter Kevin Anderson that took the top prize for the best chili – a mixture he named “firehouse chili” – in addition to the people’s choice award that also carried with it a cash prize.

He donated both of the checks back to the Second Harvest Food Bank.

The Manteca Fire Department’s “B” shift took second place, and also gave their cash prize back to the organization.

Corporate sponsor PG&E agreed to match the total amount raised by the fundraiser.