Archive for : Pittsburgh

Millie’s Ice Cream to roll out soft-serve with a new truck

This post originally appeared in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on November 8, 2017.

By Melissa McCart

Repair the World with pies

This Thanksgiving, Laura Bratkowski — who trained at the French Culinary Institute and previously worked for Momofuku Milk Bar in New York — is baking pies for Repair the World Pittsburgh, a nonprofit outreach, in tandem with bakers providing gluten- and dairy-free pies from Gluuteny in Squirrel Hill. The goal is to sell 300 pumpkin, pecan and apple pies in traditional or modified versions by Nov. 17. Pies range from around $10 to $12 and can be ordered here, with pickup on Nov. 22.

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A Pie Sale for Repair the World!

Laura Bratkowski is a Pittsburgh-based pastry chef who, until recently, had never heard of Repair the World. But last spring, the executive chef at Spoon (the restaurant where Bratowski works) was featured at one of Repair the World’s Chef Series dinners. Excited by what she saw, Bratowski offered to raise money for Repair the World by doing what she does best: baking.

This Thanksgiving, Bratkowski – who trained at the French Culinary Institute and previously worked for Momofuku Milk Bar in New York City – will prepare hundreds of pies to grace local Pittsburgh residents’ holiday tables. All of the proceeds from sales will go to Repair the World’s work. Bratkowski took a few minutes in between planning the pie sale (not to mention working full time as a pastry chef) to share what inspired her to support Repair the World’s work. Check it out and order your pies here!

This sounds like such a lovely project – how did it come about?
I first heard about Repair the World when the executive chef at my restaurant was featured at a dinner event they did in Pittsburgh. I went in expecting some fancy china and champagne dinner, but that wasn’t what I saw. Everything was served buffet style, and people had showed up to hear someone speak about food waste. It was very real, and it was clear that people were there for the right reasons – it inspired me.

In my line of work as a pastry chef, we work crazy hours and you don’t often hear a lot about people giving back to their community. I wanted to do something to help support Repair the World’s work. So I called them up and said, “Count me in for a Thanksgiving pie sale.”

What types of pies are you making?
We are selling all the classics – pumpkin, pecan, and apple. And one of my very good friends at Gluuteny has offered to make gluten free and dairy free versions of the pies. Our goal is to sell 300 pies in total. Spoon graciously offered to let me run the whole operation out of their kitchen, and I’m working with local grocers and 412 Food Rescue to get some donated ingredients.

How can people help out?
We have volunteers coming in along the process – anybody who wants to take part is more than welcome. If they want to come bake, great! If they want to help get the pies packaged and ready for pickup, wonderful. If they just want to purchase and eat pies, that works too!

Do you have a personal connection to Jewish tradition?
No, I was raised Catholic. But to me it doesn’t matter – Jewish, Catholic, whatever – as long as your heart is in the right place. Honestly, I just fell in love with the people at Repair the World. There is nothing fake about them – they are genuine and they deserve somebody to recognize the good that they do.

How can people order pies?
Repair the World set up an order form, so people can choose what they want. The cutoff day to order is November 17, and then we start baking on the 19th. Pie pickup will be on November 22 at Repair the World’s Pittsburgh location.

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 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.

On Cooking and Combatting Hunger with Michael Solomonv

Michael Solomonov is coming to Shabbat dinner in Pittsburgh.

On August 26th, the James Beard Award-winning chef of Modern-Israeli restaurants Zahav and Dizengoff (among other renowned eateries), will join Repair the World for an intimate dinner and conversation about cooking and combatting hunger.

Solomonov, who has supported numerous anti-hunger initiatives during his tenure as a chef, will be joined by a cross-section of nonprofit service partners, neighbors, lay leaders, and Repair the World Fellows, along with members of the local community. (Ahem, that could mean you! See below for details.)

The event is part of Pittsburgh’s Three Day Blow, an innovative festival that brings together food writers and food makers for a celebration of regional food and literature. Pittsburgh is one of Repair the World’s flagship cities, and the Shabbat dinner will highlight both the connections we make around the table, and the importance of working towards a just food system – within the city, and beyond.

The meal will be prepared by local Pittsburgh chef, Bill Fuller, who’s vegetarian menu will include late-summer inspired dishes like heirloom tomato salad with grilled corn, creamy polenta with a spicy marinara, and peach cobbler with blueberry ice cream. (Yum!) And the meal is open to the public! Email Sam Permutt ([email protected]) for more information and to reserve your seat at the table.

Life After a Repair the World Fellowship: Ariel Wexler

Last month, the current class of Repair the World Fellows held their final closing circles and said so long – but not goodbye! We’ve been incredibly inspired by their work as change makers during their fellowship year, and are excited to keep up with them in the months and years to come.

Here’s Ariel Wexler who was one of Repair the World’s Food Justice Fellows in Pittsburgh. She took some time to share the impact she was able to have on others over the course of the year, and the impact the fellowship had on her. Read on, then find out more about becoming a Repair the World Fellow.

What drew you to being a part of the Fellowship?
At UC Santa Cruz where I went to college, I became extremely passionate about environmentalism. My main focus was on the complexities of the food system and practices of sustainable agriculture. Growing up in a strong Jewish community and being fascinated with the history of the Jewish people I decided to minor in Jewish Studies. I thought that the Repair the World fellowship would be the perfect combination of both my interests in food justice and the Jewish community.
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Snapshots from the Jewish Food Justice Movement

This post was created in partnership with Jewish Food Experience, a project focused on bringing people together around Jewish food, culture, and tradition.

What does food justice look like on the ground? That depends on where you are. Across the country, urban and rural communities of all sizes struggle with food insecurity and uneven access and availability to healthy food. But the particular challenges these communities face change from place to place—and the movement shifts in response to those changes.

Repair the World partners with local organizations and volunteers in multiple cities—Pittsburgh, New York City, Detroit and Philadelphia—and on multiple fronts to galvanize food justice movements that reflect and prioritize each city’s specific needs. Recently, we reached out to our food justice Team Leaders, who are working with these communities to get a firsthand account of what food justice looks like from their vantage point. Read on:

What is the most pressing food justice-related challenge in your city?
PITTSBURGH
There are 2 Pittsburghs: the rust belt comeback story people talk about, and the segregation and separation that is keeping blacks, other minorities and individuals living on the margins from being able to access and partake in the “new” Pittsburgh. This affects the food movement as well. Farmers markets, urban agriculture and all the hot new eateries mainly serve the white, wealthier classes of the city. So how does our city continue to progress and move forward without leaving people out? – Greg LaBelle, 25

NEW YORK CITY
Hunger is the most salient food justice challenge for New York City. The high cost of living in NYC doesn’t just prevent people from consuming healthful foods, it straight-up prevents them from being able to purchase enough food. Some government and private programs help alleviate the hunger, but they are not sufficient and have physical and/or psychological barriers to entry. – Sam Sittenfield, 25

PHILADELPHIA
The availability and distribution of healthy food options throughout the city is pressing. Philly is the poorest large city in America. Food resources tend to be concentrated in the wealthiest areas while under-resourced areas have more corner stores (which often lack fruits and vegetables) and fewer grocery stores. – Bridget Flynn, 23

DETROIT
I think the most pressing food justice challenge in Detroit is childhood hunger. In southeastern Michigan, 1 in 5 children is food insecure and over 300,000,000 children qualify for free or reduced lunch in schools. Without consistent access to nourishing food, children and adults are not able flourish. – Erin Piasecki, 25

What role can/should Jewish food advocates play in helping address this challenge?
PITTSBURGH
Jewish organizations and advocates can truly support the people fighting these issues when they understand how best to support the individuals and groups that need help. It is crucial that we not overpower the people who need help and not diminish the focus on them and their struggle.

NEW YORK CITY
The first thing that we need to do is to educate ourselves. Many of us in the Jewish community come from privileged backgrounds and will never truly understand hunger. We can, however, start to understand the context and how pervasive it is in our communities.

PHILADELPHIA
I have seen Jewish food advocates help to make positive change in the food justice sphere by listening to community needs and providing the resources to fill them. A major part of ally-ship is active listening before taking action. Jewish texts can also be used as a tool for food justice education.

DETROIT
Jewish food advocates have tremendous power to keep hunger, and particularly the plight of hundreds of thousands of hungry children, in the public eye through awareness raising campaigns, food drives, and other volunteer driven initiatives in their communities. By supporting and collaborating with longstanding institutions advocates can amplify and concentrate their fundraising and other efforts to eliminate 21st century hunger.

Find out more about Repair the World’s food justice work, including #SupportforRefugees, a Passover campaign focused on the global refugee crisis, and how you can become a future Repair the World fellow. Big thanks to some of our wonderful local food justice partners: Grow Pittsburgh, Keep Growing Detroit, Jewish Farm School in Philadelphia and Hunger Free America in NYC.