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Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club fundraises to close gap between quality food and city youth

On May 16, Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club will be partaking in the national celebration of Food Revolution Day at Barack Obama Academy in East Liberty and with the help of the Pittsburgh community, club organizers hope to make it the largest Food Revolution Day event globally.

Food Revolution is a global campaign that was started by celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver in 2010.The initiative is a champion of educating children to make healthier food choices. In Pittsburgh, this campaign has taken the form of the Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club. The club strives to close the distance between the burgeoning food scene in the city and the reality of the diets and food choices of many of our neighborhoods’ residents. They do this through a cooking program for students at Barack Obama Academy.

Bobby Fry of Bar Marco, along with Alaina Webber, serve as co-directors for Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club and are planning the Food Revolution Day event with fellow cooking club organizers Majestic Lane, owner of Juice UP 412 and Michelle Schaffer, a Spanish teacher at Barack Obama Academy.

“We want to make fresh and nutritious food available to everyone,” says Lane. “What better way to do that than teaching young people how to cook and appreciate food?”

Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club has set up an online fundraising account on Crowdtilt.com with a goal of raising $250,000. The plan is to use $25,000 of that goal to help fund Food Revolution Day festivities and make it the largest celebration of the event in the world. Fry currently anticipates 5,000 attendees at the event, which is open and free to the public.

“We probably need more like $40,000 to do it right, but we'll make it happen,” says Fry. “Last year we had 1,800 people and we spent $7,000.”

The remaining balance of the Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club’s fundraising goal will be used to help perfect the cooking club at Barack Obama Academy and create a sustainable model for the club that includes purchasing and running a food truck on school grounds.

The Food Revolution Day event will include more than 60 exhibitors including a variety of nonprofits, local businesses, food advocacy organizations and universities putting together interactive exhibits that engage the crowd. Exhibits will be based on six key themes: food sourcing; entrepreneurship and innovation; energy; STEAM—science, technology, education, arts and mathematics; access to higher education; and public health.

“We're bringing 60 organizations together that have little to do with food directly,” says Fry. “The point of this is culture. The best ideas occur over good food and we're seeking to provide a platform of food, art, conversation and music.”

Twenty Chefs from Pittsburgh’s top restaurants will also be partnering with students to prepare a reinvented school lunch menu. All Food Revolution Day attendees will get to eat from the menu for free.

“I don't have all of the recipes from the guest chefs yet, but the food is going to be world class and the food costs are going to be low relative to what’s being served,” says Fry. “Good food is about skills, tools, and fresh local ingredients—not expensive food or out of season food that is flown in from half way around the world."

For the last year and a half, Bar Marco and local chefs have hosted the cooking club at Barack Obama Academy once a week. Every Tuesday, students work with a local chef in an integrated and experiential learning model.

Students learn a new recipe along with the philosophy behind the dish and ingredients while gaining familiarity with skills ranging from basic knife skills to fine dining plating. The goal is to empower high school students to make better food choices by providing culinary skills, access to local chefs, and industry experience.

“There is a long wait list to get in the cooking club and [the students’] cooking skills are as good as some sous chefs I've seen,” says Fry.

With the funding of a food truck, students of the club would be able to work after school and earn $12 an hour while selling food to their classmates and the community.

“The kids asked for the truck and they deserve to make money for their skills,” says Fry. “It would be a huge statement for Pittsburgh. Kevin Sousa just raised $310,000 on Kickstarter for Superior Motors and it's entirely possible that we raise enough to get these kids a food truck.”

To learn more or contribute to Food Revolution Pittsburgh Cooking Club’s fundraiser visit http://www.crowdtilt.com/campaigns/food-revolution-pittsburgh-cooking-club.
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