It's the time that Houston gourmands look forward to every year: Houston Restaurant Weeks. The annual fundraiser created by Cleverley Stone began in 2003 and has raised $16.6 million for Houston Food Bank and continues to be the largest fundraiser for Houston Food Bank which is also the largest food bank in the nation. Serving more than just the city and Harris County, it also offers aid to the counties of Montgomery, Galveston and Brazos Valley. Last year, Houston Food Bank was able to deliver 159 million meals to 18 counties in Southeast Texas through 1,500 community partners which include food pantries, soup kitchens, social service providers and schools.
This year has been especially difficult. The COVID-19 pandemic meant the loss of jobs throughout the country putting a strain on food banks as they tried to keep up with the needs of Americans, many who had never sought help before. In February, winter storm Uri also created a crisis for people who were already dealing with housing instability and job loss. Through it all, the staff and multitude of volunteers at Houston Food Bank provided the basic need of sustenance for our fellow Texans.
The pandemic not only created food insecurity for many in our city but the shutdown of restaurants and lack of customers willing to dine out, or diners lacking the funds to do so, meant restaurants themselves were at risk of closing and laying off many of their employees.
Cleverley Stone knew this would be a difficult time for the Houston restaurant industry, a world that she had reported on and supported for decades. Stone was known for her radio program, The Cleverly Show, on CBS Sports Radio 650 KIKK-AM and her restaurant segments on FOX 26/ KRIV Morning News. However, her partnership with Houston restaurants in raising funds for Houston Food Bank became a very important part of her life.
Unfortunately, that life was cut short by cancer in May 2020, only two months after the pandemic shutdown began. Not only had Stone become a vocal force for Houston restaurants and Houston Food Bank but she was also upfront about her diagnosis of uterine cancer and advocated for early screening, urging her readers on social media to get their annual well woman exams. Her final wish was that Houston Restaurant Weeks continue after her death because she knew that the restaurant industry would be adversely affected by the pandemic and that Houston Food Bank would be more important to the community than ever before.
The continuance of her work would take some doing and in tribute to her mother, Katie Stone-Cappuccio took up the challenge despite dealing with the loss of her mother. Creating The Cleverley Stone Foundation, Cappuccio has stepped into her mother's hard-to-fill shoes in order to carry out her mother's legacy.
In a press release Stone-Cappuccio said, " Last year's HRW proved to be crucial for what was perhaps the most difficult time that restaurants and the food bank ever faced. This year, I am so excited to be able to do exactly what my mother would be doing, which is everything she could for her beloved restaurant industry and the Houston Food Bank."
This year's event will begin August 1 and run through Labor Day, September 6. As in previous years, participating restaurants will offer pre-fixe menus for brunch, lunch or dinner. Some will offer all three. The lunch and brunch menus will be two, or occasionally three, courses for $20 with $1 from each menu purchase going to HFB. For dinner, some restaurants will offer three to four courses at $35 and $49 price points, depending on the restaurant. At the $35 price, $3 will be donated and $5 will be given for the $49 menus.
The list of restaurants will go online at houstonrestaurantweeks.com July 15 and will be updated with new restaurants until August 1. The 2021 website has been enhanced and will allow restaurants to input and update their menus on their own and download menu templates for diners.
As pandemic restrictions have been lifted for dining, many Houstonians are returning to their favorite bistros, diners, burger joints and steakhouses to enjoy the company of friends, celebrate milestones with family and revel in the joy of a well-cooked meal from some of Houston's best chefs. As Stone-Cappuccio says, " This year's HRW is going to be amazing!"
Cleverley would be so proud.
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