Pittsburgh takes on the Food Revolution challenge

There's a revolution on.

All over the region, little pockets of activity are coalescing into a collaborative Food Revolution a la Jamie Oliver, the British chef who champions healthier food in schools and elsewhere. Last fall at the One Young World conference held here, he challenged Pittsburgh to revamp its eating habits -- and Pittsburgh's delegates took him seriously.

Since then, about 20 local delegates have continued to meet monthly to spearhead what Liz Fetchin, Phipps Conservatory's director of marketing and communications, calls "measurable goals" -- activities and programs to help individuals, communities and organizations get fit and eat healthfully and be able to chart their progress in doing so.

It's a motley organization, however, with all different sorts of programs falling under the Food Revolution Pittsburgh umbrella -- school cooking clubs, exercise and nutrition challenges, gardens in vacant city lots and more.

Here's a look at some of the things that are happening around the region.

For more information, go to facebook.com/foodrevolutionpittsburgh.

School programs

Cooking Club: Bobby Fry, owner of Bar Marco in the Strip District, and Kelsey Weisgerber, food service director for the Environmental Charter School at Frick Park, have been running a cooking club for 20 students at the Barack Obama Academy of International Studies in East Liberty. They teach students to cook healthful meals and even provide them with their own sets of cookware to take home.

A favorite example is salad dressing: Mr. Fry said he enjoys teaching students to make tasty homemade dressings that don't include high fructose corn syrup or a lot of added salt.

"The kids have come such a long way," Ms. Weisgerber said. "It's amazing to see what a two-hour club once a week teaches students. What we've seen our students develop into are empowered, inquisitive and excited students learning about food and themselves."

Next year, Mr. Fry hopes to expand the cooking club model into two additional schools as well as continue the Obama Academy club. His eventual goal is to see the club idea replicated in schools all over the region.

Taste Education Club: Ms. Weisgerber also started a Taste Education Club at the Environmental Charter School. Students try new foods, help develop menus for future school lunches, and discuss and write about their reactions to new foods. She says more students are begging for the opportunity to join the club next year.

Power Up: Since November, Propel Schools, a network of charter schools around the region, have welcomed two representatives from Adagio Health (adagiohealth.org) into every classroom on a monthly basis to run the "Power Up" program. The representatives instruct the students on topics such as exercise and myPlate (the government's nutritional guidelines; see choosemyplate.gov). They also demonstrate how to make healthful snacks that the students can assemble at home, such as quesadillas. And they introduce students to new foods; for instance, they might bring in a pomegranate, show students how to cut it up and tell them which parts are safe to eat. Next school year, the schools will chart students' progress through journaling, which will help teachers to determine whether students are incorporating what they've learned into their routines at home.

City gardens

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office has joined the Food Revolution by starting "Edible Gardens," a new program to plant neighborhood gardens on city lots.

The first three sites -- Manchester, Troy Hill and Brighton Heights -- are under construction now, with staffers preparing the land and building beds. Community planting days are forthcoming but not yet scheduled. Press releases may appear from time to time on pittsburghpa.gov/mayor/press, but the mayor's office also will publicize the planting days heavily within the neighborhoods where the gardens are located. Volunteers will be needed on the initial planting days as well as throughout the growing season.

Five additional sites have been identified in Elliott, Beltzhoover, the Hill District and two in Sheraden -- one on a neighborhood lot and one at Langley Elementary.

Two more sites have not yet been decided upon.

The goal is to get all 10 sites up and running by July 1.

Organizations (or individuals with an organization's backing) had to submit applications for gardens. For instance, the city is partnering with the Children's Museum of Pittsburgh to run the Manchester garden.

Once harvest begins, garden volunteers and other neighborhood residents will be able to take the food for their own use. Mayor's office staff will assign dates and times for veggie pickup. They'll also have a tracking system in place to determine how many families the gardens serve and whether the families report increased vegetable consumption as a result, according to staffer Chelsea Peluso.

When there's excess food, it will go to food banks, churches or any local nonprofits that can use it.

Nutrition and health campaigns

Let's Move Pittsburgh: Modeled after First Lady Michelle Obama's anti-childhood-obesity "Let's Move!" national campaign, Pittsburgh's collaborative effort is designed to raise awareness of the benefits of healthy foods, increased exercise and decreased screen time for children.

Representatives from Phipps Conservatory, UPMC, Carnegie Mellon University, Giant Eagle and many other local organizations make up the executive and steering committee for this multifaceted campaign.

Much of the campaign is Web-based (letsmovepittsburgh.org); individuals can sign up for email updates that include healthy recipes, invitations to local nutrition- and exercise-related events, and links to resources.

In a related campaign, Let's Move Pittsburgh has asked local families to commit to eating a home-cooked, sit-down meal together at least once a week without screens on. To take the 10,000 Tables pledge, go to letsmovepittsburgh.org/10000_tables.php. Ms. Fetchin said about 2,300 families have signed up so far, and she hopes to reach the 10,000 goal by the end of 2013.

fitUnited: United Way of Allegheny County has launched a campaign to help improve child health. The organization is enrolling partners who commit to a three-year effort to improve nutrition and physical activity within their organizations or communities. For more information: uwacfitunited.org.

Food Revolution Day

Chef Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day, a worldwide promotion of healthy eating, is Friday and Pittsburgh organizations have several activities planned to celebrate.

Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, Oakland:

Young children are the focus of the day's activities, starting at 10:30 a.m. with interactive cooking demos by Stephanie Gelberd, executive chef of Cafe Phipps. She's planning three types of salsa and baked chips. Kids can help her make and then taste the food.

Kids also will be able to pot edible plants and take them home. Also, upon entering Phipps, visitors will receive pedometers to track how many steps they take during their visits.

"We wanted to be able to engage younger children" with the day's activities because many older children will be in school, Liz Fetchin, director of marketing and communications, said.

Activities are free with Phipps admission. phipps.conservatory.org.

Barack Obama Academy of International Studies, East Liberty:

Starting at 3 p.m., community members can come and watch as 10 local chefs partner with 20 Obama Academy cooking club students to reinvent traditional school lunch dishes.

Here's what they'll cook up (and who will do the cooking):

• Pizza: two professional chefs and two student chefs from Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

• Grilled chicken: Spoon, East Liberty.

• Green salad with homemade dressing: Chatham University's food studies program.

• Fruit sorbet (alternative to fruit salad): Hal B. Klein, a Chatham food studies alumnus.

• Udon noodles: Fukuda, Bloomfield.

• Vegetable soup: Springboard Kitchens.

• Grilled cheese: Oh My Grill food truck.

• Juices: Juice Up 412.

• Meat and vegetable stew: Bar Marco, Strip District.

Organizers have ordered five big charcoal grills, so chefs will cook in two shifts during the three-hour event, which starts as students are being dismissed from school.

Mr. Fry from Bar Marco helps to run Obama Academy's cooking club. He said he's always dismayed when he sees students in the neighborhood after school "all lined up at Sunoco, elbows deep in orange chips." He hopes tomorrow's event on the school football field will serve as a "big party -- a celebration of better food" where students and community members will be able to learn about healthy options.

Those who attend will be able to sample the chefs' creations.

The party also will feature a stage with live music, plus vendor tables where community members can learn about food careers, meet local farmers, sign up for CSAs and get nutrition information. Admission is free.

Eat'n Park:

The restaurant chain will offer a free salad bar for children ages 10 and under with the purchase of an adult salad bar Friday, May 17.

Parkhurst Dining:

The corporate dining arm of Eat'n Park, which manages cafeterias at Google Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Steelers headquarters, Bayer, Highmark, Carnegie Museums and other area businesses and corporate offices, will offer special Food Revolution Day entrees during lunch Friday, May 17. The dishes will be made fresh with local ingredients and will include black bean soup, avocado tostadas and a variety of chipotle-seasoned entrees, including pork tenderloin, crab cakes, orange chicken, turkey burgers and turkey meatloaf. Diners who choose one of the entrees will receive a free bag of chipotle seasoning mix and recipe cards for all the entrees.

Propel Braddock Hills High School:

The school is welcoming Adagio Health to make smoothies Friday, May 17, for the entire student body. The school also will offer presentations from other health organizations, release a healthy cookbook compiled by school staff, and reopen the school store with a more nutritious menu.

Chipotle seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons ground chipotle pepper

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder

  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin

  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

  • 2 teaspoons granulated garlic

  • 2 teaspoons onion powder

  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Combine all ingredients and store in sealed container. Use to season meats, fish, vegetables or other dishes.

Chipotle chicken with sour orange

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 1/4 cup orange juice

  • 1/4 cup lime juice

  • 1 garlic clove, minced

  • 1 teaspoon chipotle seasoning (see above)

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Place all ingredients in bowl and marinate 30 minutes.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.

Remove chicken from marinade and sear 5 minutes on each side.

Add marinade to skillet and allow sauce to reduce until chicken is cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Serve chicken with sauce poured over top.

-- Parkhurst Dining

Potato salad for a crowd

Dave Andia, chef at Spoon in East Liberty, will serve this potato salad with grilled chicken that he prepares with students at Barack Obama Academy's Food Revolution Day party.

  • 10 pounds fingerling potatoes

  • 2 cups whole-grain mustard

  • 1 cup Dijon mustard

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar

  • 3 cups oil

  • 2 large onions, minced

  • 20 stalks celery, minced

2 bunches fresh parsley, chopped

Cut potatoes into coins. Cook in simmering water until tender.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl.

Add warm potatoes to mustard mixture and stir well. Chill overnight. Stir again before serving.

-- Chef Dave Andia

Rebecca Sodergren: pgfoodevents@hotmail.com or on Twitter @pgfoodevents.


Hot Topic