HillaryImagine a group of seminary students gathering together on a Thursday afternoon for food, fellowship, and a little bit of competition. At Candler School of Theology, this isn’t exactly a rare phenomenon. What made March 17 at 5:30 p.m. special, however, was the combination of all these things in order to raise money for a good cause. It's called The Poor Seminarian's Cook-Off. 

The concept is this: faculty, students, and seminary organizations submitted recipes to Candler’s Office of Student Programming. On the day of the cook-off, 17 competitors lined themselves around tables with delicious batches of their culinary craft. The Candler community sampled each entry and voted for their favorite submission with a monetary donation. The three competitors who raised the most money won prizes.

“This is ‘Slavery-Free Salsa!’” said Janelle Adams, a third-year MDiv student. “Our Candler Social Concerns Network is working to promote fairly-traded food on campus. The tomatoes were bought at Trader Joes, which signed the Fair Food Agreement. This means Trader Joes has committed to stopping farmworker abuse in tomato fields and making sure farmworkers are paid fair wages for their labor.”

“For my submission, I made gluten-free apple pie,” said Larry Gipson, a second-year MDiv student. “I have Celiac disease, and when I first got to Candler, there wasn’t a lot of awareness about Celiac. So as a part of my campaign for greater awareness of Celiac, I made a gluten-free apple pie to prove to people that it can be just as delicious as a regular apple pie. ” Indeed, the gluten-free version was everything he promised (maybe even better, if I do say so myself).

All donations raised at the Cook-Off went to Wholesome Wave Georgia (WWG), a local non-profit that helps families in need access fresh, local, and nutritious food. WWG does this by doubling federal nutritional systems benefits (e.g., SNAP, a.k.a. food stamps) when participants shop at local, producer-owned farmers markets. This means more money for local farmers, and more fresh food for Georgia residents. Currently, 45 different farmers markets partner with WWG, but they are looking to expand their reach. WWG also enrolls residents who qualify for SNAP benefits and partners with other local organizations to alleviate food insecurity.

Each Cook-Off competitor was excited to support WWG in its work. “It’s incredible to see our community come together like this,” said Megan Hoewisch, a first-year MDiv student. “We talk about ‘abundance’ in the face of ‘scarcity’ a lot in seminary, and I think this event embodies just that: fighting hunger by feeding the hungry, both at school and in the community.”

Everyone who came to the Cook-Off walked away with their fill of many delicious dishes, from Cuban flan to spicy-avocado deviled eggs, pickled beets and eggs, stir-fry ketchup chicken to white chocolate-chip ginger snaps. Despite the popularity of the Korean gamjajorim and the Candler Events team’s St. Patrick’s Day-themed table set with corned beef and cabbage, the Pitts Theology Library team won the coveted first prize with their literary themed foods. Entries included “Lime of the Ancient Mariner” lime-aid, “Banana Karenina” banana bread, “Great Eggs-pectations” deviled eggs, “A Sprinkle in Time” chocolate cupcakes, and “Baby Book” ribs.

Abundance in the face of scarcity. Food in the face of hunger. Just another special Thursday at Candler School of Theology.