Food Column: Thinking big for Pittsburgh's Food Revolution Day 2014


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Bar Marco co-owner Bobby Fry is at it again, raising funds for a healthy food party in East Liberty later this month but also thinking bigger.

He's hoping to raise enough money to set up his Cooking Club students at Obama Academy of International Studies with their own food truck, where they can sell healthy snacks after school, get paid, learn to run a business and put their cooking skills to work. He works with 20 students there and has another 80 on the waiting list.

First off, the food party: Pittsburgh's Food Revolution Day 2014 celebration will feature a 2:30 p.m. bash on Friday, May 16, on the Obama Academy grounds, 515 N. Highland Ave. In conjunction with Global Shapers Pittsburgh Hub, he's lined up 20 chefs from the likes of BRGR, Fukuda, Root 174 and other local restaurants to come and cook free food for the expected crowd of 5,000.

More than 60 community organizations have agreed to set up booths and activities, allowing students to "experience a wide range of organizations -- people doing things from scratch," Mr. Fry said.

Sort of like he's doing.

This is the second annual food party he's throwing on what British activist chef Jamie Oliver has dubbed Food Revolution Day -- a worldwide day to promote good, healthy food for all, especially kids. And this year, Mr. Fry's wish is to "out-Jamie-Oliver Jamie Oliver" -- to attract a bigger crowd at Pittsburgh's Food Revolution Day celebration than Mr. Oliver's in London.

Last year's Pittsburgh party attracted 1,800, but part of the money Mr. Fry has drummed up to cover this year's party will be devoted to busing in attendees from underprivileged neighborhoods around the city.

Five days into his crowd-funding campaign at crowdtilt.com, Mr. Fry already had passed the halfway mark for his target of $25,000; by April 19, he'd reached that number. But there's plenty more opportunity to donate. What's unique about a crowdtilt.com campaign is that it allows organizers to set both a "tilt" (the amount of money that must be raised within 30 days in order to receive any funds at all) and a "target" (the over-the-top goal that funds a big-dream project).

Mr. Fry's "tilt" is the Food Revolution Day celebration, which is now assured. His "target" is threefold: expansion of the Obama Academy cooking club, a food truck for the school, and eventual expansion of the model to other city schools.

He'd like to outfit the school with some equipment for the cooking club so he doesn't have to keep "loading up the Jeep" and schlepping stuff from Bar Marco to East Liberty every Tuesday. And he'd like to let in some of those kids on the waiting list.

But the kicker would be the ability to buy and outfit a food truck. Cooking-club students could work the truck after school, posing direct competition to the convenience store across the street, where Mr. Fry said students currently go to buy junk food.

He'd start out the food-truck students making a menu of simple, healthy foods such as vegetarian fried rice, meat tacos and fresh juices, and the profits could make the cooking club self-sustaining.

If he doesn't raise all $250,000 by this Sunday, May 4 (the final day of the crowdtilt.com campaign), he intends to form an organization over the summer to keep pursuing contributions and grant money.

For information or to donate, go to foodrevpgh.com.

Classes/demos

Gluten-free book signings: Caroline Shannon-Karasik, author of "The Gluten-Free Revolution," will sign copies of her book from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 3, at Gluuteny in Squirrel Hill. She'll also make smoothies and sign books from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at Sunny Bridge Natural Foods in McMurray.

Festivals

Pittsburgh Wine Festival: More than 500 wines from 30 countries. Thursday, May 8, at Heinz Field, North Side. VIP tasting ($250) at 5 p.m.; grand tasting ($125) starts at 7 p.m. pittsburghwinefestival.com.

Ukrainian Food Festival: Pierogies, stuffed cabbage, cabbage and noodles, kielbasa on a stick, homemade bread, nut rolls, plant sale for Mother's Day. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 10, at St. Vladimir Church Hall, 73 S. 18th St., South Side.

Ambridge Nationality Days: Arts and craft vendors, food booths, live entertainment, parade (10 a.m. May 18) and more. May 17-19. ambridgechamberofcommerce.com.

Benefits

Cocktails & Cuisine: Food and drinks from more than 20 local establishments, plus live jazz, live and silent auctions and celebrity and people's-choice food judging. 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 16, at The Woodlands in Bradford Woods. $75 per person; proceeds benefit Crisis Center North. crisiscenternorth.org.


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

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