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Meet the man who uses pizza to make the world a better place

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Meet the man who uses pizza to make the world a better place

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Is it possible that pizza makes the world a better place? Slice the hunger founder Scott Wiener thinks so. In 2008, based on his self-proclaimed obsession with pizza and pizza box illustrations – he holds the Guinness World Record for owning 1,600 pizza boxes and wrote a book about it – Wiener started Visits Pizza Scott At New York. In 2015, he officially established the charity Slice Out Hunger, as a non-profit organization, although he did not have much experience in the non-profit sector. The organization partners with pizzerias and charities, both locally and nationally, to raise funds for campaigns such as Pizza against pandemic, Toppings for Texas, Vax and snacks, and the annual Pizza Across America, which distributes pizzas to soup kitchens and shelters on National Pizza Day (February 9). So far, SOH has raised over $ 1 million to fund efforts to alleviate hunger. In this edition of Voices in Food, Wiener talks to Garin Pirnia on the challenges of running a nonprofit and how pizza could save humanity.

Slice Out Hunger started out as an annual fundraising event every year since I started Scott’s Pizza Tours. The pizzerias I work with offered to give me a few free pizzas to throw a little party and have a good time. I started using these parties as a way to get my friends to pay, roughly, a dollar a slice. Scott’s Pizza Tours would match those funds and send all the money as a donation to a local anti-hunger charity. After a few years, Slice Out Hunger became the name of the whole organization when we became a 501 (c) (3). We started doing other things that weren’t just this event.

This is the way for the tour to be able to balance giving back to the community while being able to treat food as entertainment. It’s not so much that I saw something unexpected in the community. This is New York. There are a lot of people who are hungry. After each tour, if there are additional installments, we are always looking for people on the street to give those installments. But it is really not enough. That doesn’t really solve the problem, and Slice Out Hunger’s mission is much more focused on the real problem: How do you tackle all forms of food insecurity and not just give people a slice of pizza? Most of the people on the street don’t ask for a slice of pizza. They need a lot more than that – they need jobs, a place to shower, money to live their life. Slice Out Hunger became a way of trying to raise funds for these mechanisms to work. We have a mechanism, but we are not equipped to provide services to people.

“I think some cities want to put hunger under the rug and get rid of the problem by making sure we don’t see it. We need to tackle the mental health crisis in the country because it has more to do with homelessness than people losing their jobs. “

People like Jose andrés set such a good example that when you have the ability to do something right, you just do it. This is how humans should work, that is, you see something that you can help with and then help yourself. The pizza community is pretty awesome. There are pizzerias everywhere. Everyone is talking to each other. The people are mostly friendly with each other. I think a lot of people think pizza places are secret enemies of each other, but it’s a really good community. Slice Out Hunger acts as that central hub to bring people together in this community. We explain it very easily: “Hey, we’re doing it. Do you want to come in? Just tell us. Don’t you want to come in? No problem. I will not bother you.

For every program that we run, we want to make sure that all the money we raise goes into that program and that it is not used for administrative costs. Of course, we realized that we have to pay for our administrative tasks, otherwise we cannot do these programs. Finding funding for this is a really difficult part. And being able to market is really tough because those of us who run Slice Out Hunger aren’t seasoned nonprofit pros. We understand things as we go along. Really everything we do is a challenge. In my normal life before COVID, I would never really be home. Suddenly [during the pandemic]I was at home all day and those free hours were spent on a lot of Slice Out Hunger. Time is a real problem, and now that we’re getting back to some normalcy with touring, it’s just gotten harder to do Slice Out stuff, which is why we’re looking for more funding and hiring seasoned pros.

I think some cities want to take hunger under the rug and get rid of the problem by making sure we don’t see it. We need to tackle the mental health crisis in the country because it has more to do with homelessness than people losing their jobs. Beyond that is the idea of ​​tackling food insecurity before it becomes a problem. Preventing hunger is far more important than relieving hunger. We need to teach people about nutrition and cooking … our country has become more focused on delivering food during COVID. It’s about outsourcing our food, and I think we need to turn it around.

“I might not understand the political intricacies of a country, but pizza is a way to start a conversation and find common ground. “

Pizza is that great equalizer. It brings everyone together. It is not exclusive at all. This does not prevent anyone from participating. You can be vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free and you can participate. You can be rich. You can be poor. It’s like a safe space for everyone. I might not understand the political intricacies of a country, but pizza is a way to start a conversation and find common ground. And in a time when people are really looking for ways to throw someone they don’t agree with across the room, and people want to be extreme in their views, pizza is a good way to recognize. humanity into each other and reclaim civility and try to approach the issues from a pragmatic point of view rather than just pure emotion, which I think we got caught up in.

I get people on my tours with whom I’m sure I don’t agree on everything politically. There is no point in starting a relationship with someone by understanding the ways in which you completely disagree with their point of view. I know it sounds crazy, “Do you think you’re gonna get together and have a pizza party?” But I literally believe it: The pizza that brings people together is a way to turn a potential battle into a conversation, and a conversation is the first step towards solving a problem.


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