To help feed the hungry and alleviate some strain on local emergency food providers in Charleston, S.C., Mickey Bakst, general manager of Charleston Grill at the Charleston Place Hotel, created the Charleston Chefs Feed the Need program, pulling together local restaurants, caterers and hoteliers (pictured, below) to serve weekly meals to as many as 500 people. Since its launch in April, the program has helped feed approximately 14,000 people, saving food banks an estimated total of $42,000.

Bakst created the idea for Feed the Need after learning that a budget crunch had forced Crisis Ministries to close its soup kitchen once a week. One day a week, a different restaurant, caterer or hotelier will take over soup kitchens throughout Charleston and serve meals to people in need, saving the charitable organizations about $1,500 per week. In addition to Crisis Ministries, organizations supported by Feed the Need include Tricounty Family Ministries, East Cooper Meals on Wheels and Neighborhood House. Bakst hopes to ultimately expand the initiative to other cities.

The program is set to continue into 2010, with six companies joining the original 52 participating restaurants, caterers and hotels. Other local organizations have gotten involved as well, including through monetary donations. Firefly Distillery, Wadmalaw Island, S.C., recently raised $4,700 for Feed the Need through a local charity fundraising event and has also donated proceeds from sales to the cause.