Archive for : Food Justice

Q&A with Hal B. Klein of Pittsburgh Magazine

In this sit down interview with Pittsburgh Magazine’s (and Repair the World Pittsburgh Advisory Committee Member) Hal B. Klein, we dive in to his history with food, food justice, Repair the World, and his love for the city of Pittsburgh.

Name: Hal B. Klein
Resides in: Bloomfield, Pittsburgh.
Current Job: Restaurant Critic and Associate Editor, Pittsburgh Magazine
Age: 42

Repair: Tell us a bit about your background.
Hal: I was working as an actor in theater and film, and around 2008 I decided I wanted to try something new. I always had been interested in food, and I found this program at Chatham University in Pittsburgh offering a new Master’s Program in Food Studies. It sounded like a pretty cool multi-disciplinary program looking at food systems, so I decided to give it a shot.

And how did you get into writing about food?
Well I knew I wanted to do something communications related, so I took a food writing class in my program the summer between my first and second year. The professor told our class that the local alternative weekly magazine was looking for someone to write about alcohol. So I pitched the editor there and got the job. Later I became friends with the new restaurant critic for the Post-Gazette. One time she couldn’t do a story and gave it to me. That led to an ongoing freelance gig with them, and then I got my full time job with Pittsburgh Magazine where I am Restaurant Critic and Associate Editor.

How do you approach your work and how do your stories come together?
I’m usually working on one or two big features at a time. I really try to focus on people or issues so my stories are more than just lists about food. One story I did recently focused on international restaurants; I focused on the people running the restaurants so it really became a story about immigrants. I’m now working on a story about people who were incarcerated and are now working in restaurants, which presents both great opportunities but certainly some challenges too. I do about four print columns a month, which includes a restaurant review, and an online column. Another cool thing is that because I’m also an editor, I get to write my own headlines, which is very rare in the world of journalism.

How does your work fit in with the mission of Repair the World?
First I should say that I have not covered food justice issues as much I’d like to, and I really plan to cover it more in the next couple of years. Pittsburgh is fortunate to have organizations like Repair. Change happens when people talk to others from different backgrounds and with different challenges, and together they try to overcome them. I know Repair brings people together to start talking initially, and then to have that conversation lead to action. Going to dinner and hearing from a diverse assortment of people, really having a forum for challenging discussions, will lead to systemic change driven by younger generations. Nationally, food justice is a very serious issue and it manifests itself in ways a lot of us cannot even fathom. I’ve met people who don’t have refrigerators. Organizations and leaders are doing great work. But these are very tough issues—it’s hard to change systems; hard to equalize the playing field; and hard to engage people.

What are you specifically seeing in Pittsburgh with food justice?
Pittsburgh has a lot of people who want to provide food access to as many people as possible. Along with Repair locally, 412 Food rescue uses tech really well to get people food. They have a mobile platform for restaurants to post when they have extra food, and people get alerts so they can then pick up the food and deliver it. This idea of “Tech and human touch” is defining Pittsburgh. We also have a problem that other cities have: how do you pay workers in the kitchen more than $8.50/hour without raising the price at the restaurant of a meal? It’s not easy for customers to understand that cause and effect, but we have to convince people that this makes sense for the economics of society.

What’s Pittsburgh like as a city?
I moved here is 2010 and fell in love with the city. It’s really amazing to see the growth of the city in terms of people and also the number of restaurants here now. This city really is built on people and the enriching and exciting communities they create. Pittsburgh is big enough to have a lot going on, but small enough to have a real feeling of community. You might go somewhere and not know people, but soon enough you talk to people and quickly find a connection. One other defining quality of Pittsburgh is that I haven’t found there to be cutthroat competition like in other cities. There’s healthy competition to do well, but people really help each other too.

And what about the Pittsburgh food scene?
There’s a long history here of Eastern European food; it’s actually known locally as “hunky food,” a term that sometimes used to carry a negative connotation, but is used more often today as a term of endearment. Yet with so many restaurants opening now there’s a re-definition of Pittsburgh food. Some people are taking the Eastern European cuisine and refreshing it; others are trying things more along the lines of the national food scene. And with a newer wave of immigration from China, we’re seeing great regionally specific restaurants popping up serving diners who know how to navigate a regional menu.

And finally, I have to ask – what’s your favorite food?
That’s easy – delicious food.

Food industry can be an entry point for ex-cons seeking to build a new life

This article originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on December 1, 2017.

By Dan Gigler

Having spent most of his adult life trapped in a vicious cycle between jail and the hustle of the drug trade, Julius Drake got an expected wake-up call in the form of the kitchen spoon to the back of the head.

He was working in the kitchen at the Allegheny County Jail while incarcerated there, when a woman from his neighborhood, a jail employee who worked in food service, bopped him with a spoon and told him he should pay attention. By virtue of working in the kitchen he was developing a trade, and he didn’t even realize it.

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Why I am Inspired to Act Now

This post originally appeared in e-Jewish Philanthropy on November 22, 2017.

By Raffaella Glasser

After over two months as a Repair the World Fellow it still feels like yesterday that I sat at Capital Camps at the Repair the World national orientation surrounded by my fellow fellows. We each were embarking on our year of service with Repair the World. I was in awe of the people I was meeting – each fellow coming from across the country with an incredible set of skills, amazing experiences and drive for the work they were about to begin. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would fit into Repair. Would my skills and experiences prepare me for the year to come?

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Repair the World People: Ken Regal of Just Harvest

In the month leading up to Passover, Repair the World is sharing stories that highlight the on-the-ground ways our fellows, volunteers, and partner organizations serve in solidarity to turn the tables on racial injustice. Today, meet Ken Regal, a pioneer of the food justice movement and Executive Director of Just Harvest in Pittsburgh. Then, join our Passover campaign and help us serve in solidarity by hosting and volunteering. Together we can #ActNowForRacialJustice.

These days, food justice is at the forefront of American consciousness. But back in the mid-1980s, years if not decades ahead of its time, Just Harvest pioneered a dynamic anti-hunger organization in Pittsburgh. By linking local poverty with global food challenges – they are talking about food deserts before it was even a term – and combining holistic direct service with education and advocacy, they have become one of the country’s most important food justice organizations.

Over the past 30 years, Just Harvest has stayed true to its core principles that food is a fundamental right and that all people – regardless of their background or circumstances – are entitled to “dignity, rights, and a voice in the policies that affect them.” At the ground level, they help connect low income families to public services like food stamps and school meals, and help foster increased access to healthy, fresh foods within underserved neighborhoods. They also are a resource for individuals and families who need subsidized help with income tax preparation.

On the advocacy level, they lobby and educate on these same issues – childhood hunger, a compassionate approach to benefits, and healthy food access. “Some people see us as mostly an organization that directly helps low income people,” said co-founder and Executive Director, Ken Regal. “But our roots are in policy.”
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Repair the World People: Rebecca Mather

In the month leading up to Passover, Repair the World is sharing stories that highlight the on-the-ground ways our fellows, volunteers, and partner organizations serve in solidarity to turn the tables on racial injustice. Today, meet Rebecca Mather, who incorporates Repair the World materials into her work as Social Justice Coordinator at Texas Hillel. Then, join our Passover campaign and help us serve in solidarity by hosting and volunteering. Together we can #ActNowForRacialJustice.

Every Friday night, Jewish students gather at Texas Hillel at the University of Texas, Austin for Shabbat services. But in addition to the Reform, Conservative, and traditional minyanim (prayer gatherings) one might expect, some students opt for a different sort of gathering: a conversation about social justice.

Launched by Texas Hillel staffer, Rebecca Mather, the conversations cover everything from unpacking the Black Lives Matter movement to exploring Judaism’s relationship with water as a starting point to discuss the situations in Flint or at Standing Rock.
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Repair the World People: Horace Bradley

In the month leading up to Passover, Repair the World is sharing stories that highlight the on-the-ground ways our fellows, volunteers, and partner organizations serve in solidarity to turn the tables on racial injustice. Today, meet volunteer extraordinaire, Horace Bradley. Then, join our Passover campaign and help us serve in solidarity by hosting and volunteering. Together we can #ActNowForRacialJustice.

Choosing to volunteer is, when you really think about it, pretty heroic. We’re all busy folks – with school, with work, with family obligations, with…life. So the act of purposefully carving out the time to help someone else, or to help a whole community or the planet is pretty much worthy of a standing ovation.

One of the things we strive for at Repair the World is to create meaningful volunteer opportunities that let everyday people (that’s all of us) become everyday heroes. We have a lot of everyday heroes who volunteer in our partner cities, but Horace Bradley is one of the most dedicated.

By day, Bradley works as a customer service agent at Target. But in his spare time over the last two years, he has volunteered regularly with Philly Farm Crew – urban farm/garden volunteer workdays which we run in partnership with the Jewish Farm School. During Farm Crew days, volunteers get their hands dirty in the soil, doing work on vacant lot gardens and urban farms around Philadelphia.

Farming is labor-intensive work that requires persistence and commitment throughout the growing season. Without volunteers like Bradley, the work of planting and harvesting vegetables, weeding the gardens, building a greenhouse, and constructing a Cobb oven (all things done during Philly Farm Crew days) simply wouldn’t happen. “Farming is a great way to commune with nature and with others,” Bradley said.

In addition to the Farm Crew, Bradley has been involved with Repair the World in a variety of other ways – baking loaves of bread with Challah for Hunger, sorting books at a public school library, and packing food for people in need. He also joined one of Repair the World’s alternative break programs in Detroit. “It was my first time volunteering so far away from home,” he said. During the trip, he and the other volunteers boarded up abandoned homes.

So what inspires someone like Bradley to make such a deep and lasting commitment to volunteering – to get bitten by the service bug? Service is a two-way street. When done well and thoughtfully, service work benefits a community in need in innumerable ways. But it also. “Repair the world has changed aspects of my life,” Bradley said. “I think about food differently thanks to Philly Farm Crew, and I’m more outgoing now. But the most rewarding aspect is just being there, helping others.”

Check out the cute video Bradley made about his experience volunteering with the Philly Farm Crew.

Repair Interview: Leah Lizarondo of 412 Food Rescue

From the vegetables that rot in our crisper drawers before we cook them, to the uneaten sandwiches that get tossed at a coffee shop at the end of the day, Americans waste a lot of food – nearly 40 percent of the total food supply. Meanwhile 1 in 6 people do not know where their next meal is coming from. Those numbers did not add up to Leah Lizarondo and Gisele Fetterman, so they decided to do something about it in their home city of Pittsburgh.

Their organization, 412 Food Rescue, works to recover un-sellable but perfectly good food from retailers, restaurants, caterers, and universities (among other places) and deliver it to organizations that help to feed people in need. Meanwhile, they empower nearly 1,000 volunteers to make a real difference in the lives of their neighbors.

Repair the World’s Pittsburgh Fellows have partnered closely with 412 Food Rescue since its founding. Now, we are excited to share their work with you. Here, co-founder Leah Lizarondo (pictured at right, with Repair the World Fellows Max and Lydia) talks about creating the “Uber for food rescue,” why ugly vegetables are the next frontier of closing the food gap, and the role that faith communities can play in advancing food justice.

What was the inspiration behind 412 Food Rescue?
We started in direct response to the disconnect that we as a society waste 40 percent of the food supply while 1/6 people go hungry. We work on the retail end of the supply chain, where surplus happens on a daily basis. In aggregate, the food wasted by grocery stores, restaurants, universities, coffee shops, and other retail locations represents the largest source of surplus food aside from our own homes. We partner with the retail locations to pick up their surplus and match the food available to non-profits that serve people who are food insecure.

Right now in Pittsburgh we partner with 150 retailers and 200 non-profits, and have 900 volunteers signed up. In our second year of operation this year, we will rescue 1 million pounds of food.

How do you coordinate the food rescues to make sure they are getting to the right place?
We work dynamically to match every food recovery to the right place and make sure the food is useful to the populations the organization serves. We don’t just drop off food without finding out from our partners if its an appropriate delivery. For example, if we recover 2 dozen bagels from a bagel shop, we are not going to drop those off at a housing facility that serves 200 people. Instead, we might drop them off at a shelter that serves 12 people. We are working on creating an intelligent algorithm that will do this matching for us. And in a couple of weeks, we will be releasing an app that coordinates our volunteers by sending them notifications of food rescue opportunities near them.

Tell me about the Ugly CSA.
The Ugly CSA is another one of our programs that tries to tackle food waste at the farm level. About 20% of food waste happens at the farm and manufacturing level. As a society we have these cosmetic standards for fruit and vegetables that aren’t realistic, and lot of the produce that is grown at farms is discarded because it doesn’t match those standards. We created a new market for farmers to sell their “ugly” produce at a discount through CSA shares. We launched this past summer with a local farm alliance and sold 40 shares, and plan to scale it up this year.

What are different ways that volunteers get involved in your work?
95% of our volunteer force is dedicated to food recovery. People can sign up to be a “food rescue hero,” which means they pick up surplus food and deliver it to one of our non-profit partners. They are basically like an Uber for food rescue. We have a partnership with Zipcar, which allows volunteers to get a car for an hour for free if they’re doing a food rescue.

Another way volunteers get involved is through our Hidden Harvest program, which just launched this fall. Volunteers help to glean unpicked fruit from private and city trees around Pittsburgh. This fall, volunteers harvested 1,500 pounds of fruit that otherwise would have gone to waste.

Can you share a story of 412 Food Rescue’s impact?
Because we are a nontraditional organization, we can partner with non profits that might not specifically be hunger organizations, but that serve populations that are food insecure. One of those organizations is the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh. We are the first providers to bring food directly to their residencies. Because of the work we’re doing, their residents know where their next meal is coming from – they know they can expect food at a scheduled drop off.

Can you describe your partnership with Repair the World?
I met Zack Block, who runs the Repair the World community in Pittsburgh a few years ago when we were working out of the same co-working space. At the time I was writing for an online magazine, and I wrote about Repair the World when they launched here three years ago. At the time 412 Food Rescue was in its germination stage, and I knew they’d be an instrumental partner in getting our organization off the ground. When we were about to launch, I got in touch with Zack and asked for the fellows’ help in recruiting our first volunteers. Repair the World’s fellows played a big role in getting us started, and continue to make a significant difference in our work of recruiting and retaining volunteers.

What role should religious organizations and faith communities play in food justice work?
I think a lot. As we have demonstrated with Repair the World, outreach to faith based organizations is instrumental to what we do. The common thread between all religions – whether you belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque – is a base message to do good. We offer an easy way to plug in and do that.

Repair Interview: Zamir Hassan of Muslims Against Hunger

Repair the World recently launched our High Holiday campaign, focused on advancing racial justice and building relationships between communities. There are many different ways to get involved (Learn about the root causes of racial injustice in America. Host or attend a Turn the Tables dinner. Take action in solidarity with our neighbors as a multiracial Jewish community.) – and we encourage you to explore them all.

Meanwhile, we will be introducing you to some of our favorite change makers. Here’s Zamir Hassan, founder of Muslims Against Hunger. As a network of more than 20 volunteer communities across the country, the organization is making a real impact on food justice front. Read on to find out more…

What was your inspiration behind starting Muslims Against Hunger?
I grew up in Pakistan and came to graduate school in America in 1973. In 2000, I ended up going to a soup kitchen for the first time as a chaperone for my son’s school in New Jersey. I was shocked. There were people who were homeless living in my community, and I had no idea that they were there. I was ignorant. The Muslim liturgy says I am not supposed to go to bed if my neighbor is hungry. I started reflecting on that, and it motivated me to get engaged with the hunger issue.
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