EDINA, Minn. (WCCO) —  It’s raised more than $24 million for the nation’s food shelves and served up nearly 200 million meals to help feed those hungry.

The popular benefit that began in the Twin Cities 25 years ago will again make a big splash at Super Bowl weekend in San Francisco on Feb. 6.

In 1992, the Twin Cities hosted the very first cold weather Super Bowl and all the fun festivities that go along with it. Organizers were looking for ways to provide indoor fun and the idea was born. That included the first-ever “Taste of the NFL” charity dinner. Now 25 years later, the annual hunger benefit is still going strong.

It’s the brainchild of local restauranteur, Wayne Kostrowski, who is still behind the annual gala to fight hunger.

“This was really an opportunity to say, OK, let’s create an event,” Kostrowski said.

That event quickly became Taste of the NFL. The idea features noted chefs from each NFL city, who pair their dishes with NFL legends at their sides.

So began a dream that’s since raised more than $24 million for hunger relief. Proceeds raised will go to food pantries and hunger programs in all 32 NFL cities.

“The basic need for anybody is great nutrition. Without it you can’t exercise, can’t study, can’t go to school. You can’t do anything without proper nutrition,” Kostrowski said.

His office is filled with past mementos from each of the previous 24 Taste of the NFL events, including the very first event program featuring a rising chef by the name of Bobby Flay.

This year’s host is celebrity chef, Andrew Zimmern. Along with a night of food tasting, 2,500 attendees will be showered with live music, bid on coveted auction items and rub shoulders with NFL legends.

Kostrowski says he’s humbled by how large the event has become but mostly, its lasting impact on sacking hunger in America.

“It’s a great opportunity for Minnesotans to beat our chests and say, look, we started something here together in ’92 and it’s still there,” Kostrowski said.

In February 2018, the Twin Cities will once again host the Super Bowl in the new U.S. Bank Stadium. Plans are already underway to make it “Taste of the NFL Comes Home.”

Bill Hudson

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