Pittsburgh Magazine’s and Repair the World Pittsburgh Advisory Committee Member Hal B. Klein, dives into his history with food, food justice, and Repair the World.
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.
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.
Pittsburgh is fortunate to have organizations like Repair the World. 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, to volunteering. 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 who are looking to volunteer.
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.
I 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.