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Bennett Helping Relieve Hunger

Sheila Bennett ‘76 lives in Cumming, Georgia, where she works as Director of the Great American Dine Out.

Sheila writes, “Following graduation, I returned to my home city of Nashville, Tennessee to attend college at Lipscomb University where I studied Elementary Education and Psychology. Immediately following, I worked at Vanderbilt Hospital as a teaching assistant to patients in Child Psychiatry. While working there, I began my career in the foodservice industry.

I worked part-time at Ruby Tuesday for many years, where I met the distributor's executive team, PYA Monarch (Sara Lee Corporation) and was recruited for their organization. My roles at PYA Monarch spanned account management to purchasing and leading the Chain Account Department managing accounts such as Applebee’s, Back Yard Burgers, Pizza Hut, Maggiano’s Little Italy, On the Border, and Ryan’s.

This led to an opportunity in Chicago, Illinois with the National Restaurant Association in Industry Relations. I returned to the southeast to work with Compass Group North America and Basix Restaurant Services.

A couple of years ago, I decided to seek an organization still connected to the industry I enjoy that also provided me an opportunity to give back. I was hired to lead Share Our Strength’s newest fundraising initiative – the Great American Dine Out. In its second year and in a tough economy, we have already raised $150,000 more than in the first event in 2008. The Great American Dine Out rallies restaurants across the country for one week to raise funds in unique ways to help end childhood hunger in America. Restaurants participate by donating a percentage of sales, promoting select menu items, collecting money with suppliers and guests, and much more.

Over 3,000 restaurants chose to support Share Our Strength as their national charity of choice during our September 20-26, 2009 event. We anticipate continuing to grow and hope many more restaurants join us in this fight to ensure no child experiences hunger in their lifetime. Share Our Strength is the leading non-profit organization working to end childhood hunger and have established a 10 point plan to accomplish this goal.

It has been a wonderful gift to blend my love of great food with my professional and personal life. This past year, I worked with Aaron McCargo, Jr. of Food Network’s Big Daddy’s House, have met and dined alongside some of the great chefs and taken culinary courses, too, such as the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Le Cordon Blue (Paris), and Judy Witts Francini’s Italian Cooking in Florence, Italy. Each year, I look forward to an overseas adventure somewhere, and still hope to visit Morocco, Turkey, Egypt, and Peru.


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