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FLORIDA Share Our Strength held its fourth annual South Florida Great America Bake Sale at Aventura Mall on Sunday, drawing more than 3,500 to Center Court. Overseen by local Share Our Strength representatives, Great American Bake Sales around the country are traditionally held on a smaller scale at local community centers, neighborhoods, or bakeries. Wanting to attract more people to the South Florida event, chef Allen Susser of Chef Allen’s in Aventura coordinated the charity's first mall-based sale at Aventura Mall in South Florida in 2006, a format that Share Our Strength's national office took to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, in 2008.
Even in the current economy, Susser secured more local sponsors than in previous years, including Pazzo Bakery and the Nerdel Company, an educational cartoon company that donated 250 books and branded items that Share Our Strength sold at the event. “It was a little harder than in past years [to get sponsors], but it takes perseverance at any time,” said Susser, who worked with Agency 21 Consulting to recruit sponsors. “You just need to be out there getting your name in front of them.”
A total of 25 local bakers, pastry chefs, restaurants, and chocolatiers participated—including We Take the Cake, Cake Designs by Edda's, and 1 Bleau at the Regent Bal Harbour—and displayed their baked goods on tables custom-designed by each vendor. Each table had samples for people to taste and packaged baked goods for sale. Susser conducted a raffle every hour, giving away items like KitchenAid knives, Wolfgang Puck pots and pans, bakery gift baskets from Jennifer’s Homemade, and 27 other items donated by stores in the mall.
Every 30 minutes attention turned to Center Court's stage, where chefs from Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School conducted sugar- and chocolate-sculpting demonstrations and Nerdel's mascot teamed up with Susser to perform a skit about healthy eating for kids.
The event raised $12,100 through ticket and raffle sales, which will benefit the South Florida Daily Bread Food Bank, healthy eating educational organization Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth, and hunger and poverty prevention group Florida Impact. Due to the success of the event, Share Our Strength Florida field manager Sari Vastke plans to expand the bake sale's mall format into other South Florida shopping centers in Broward and Palm Beach counties later in the year.
Local sponsors for the event included Whole Foods, Miami magazine, Turnberry Association, and Aruba.com. Domino Sugar, C&H Sugar, Food Network, Ultragrain whole grain flour, and Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade are national sponsors.