Chili cookoff will benefit organizations, spotlight hunger

A benefit chili cooking contest and dining experience will be held Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Homebase College Ministry, located on campus at 82 Central Drive, with guest speakers taking the occasion to discuss food insecurities, homelessness and hunger in the community.

The event will begin at 5 p.m. Meals will cost $5 with proceeds going to Homebase and the event sponsor, the Western Carolina University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Homebase is an on-campus facility that focuses on aiding university students in need and those students who have aged out of the foster care system or are orphans.

Two award-winning journalists, Cory Villancourt with Smoky Mountain News and Frank Taylor with Carolina Public Press, will join Homebase coordinator Melanie Vick to discuss the hunger crisis and homeless situation in Western North Carolina.

“A chili cookoff is something we held a few years back, and it was a fun way to raise funds for the SPJ chapter,” said Katerina Spasovska, associate professor, head of WCU’s Communication Department and the chapter adviser. “This time, we wanted to go beyond just having fun and use the opportunity to discuss an important topic with the wider community. The fact is that hunger, food insecurity and poverty and homelessness are around us and very real.

“As an educator, I know students who are struggling financially, and it can be one car problem away for them to have to face making a decision whether to fix the car, not pay their electric bill or wonder where to get food for the next two weeks,” she said. “There is a reason why Homebase has a pantry, showers and a room where someone in need can sleep. So, this event is our way to raise awareness and provide a hot bowl of chili along with fellowship.”

Aspiring chefs, recipe aficionados or home-cooking gourmets interested in vying for best chili honors should contact Spasovska at kspasovska@wcu.edu with the subject line “Chili Cookoff.” Donations of cornbread, desserts and toppings also are being accepted.