Learning Knife Skills and Life Skills in Pittsburgh

Learning Knife Skills And Life Skills In Pittsburgh

Mon 10 Jun 2013

Story by Leah Lizarondo, The Brazen Kitchen

In October 2012, at the One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh, Jamie Oliver issued a challenge to fight for food education that many heard.

Obama High School Cooking Club

Kelsey Weisgerber, food services director at a charter school; Bobby Fry, a restaurateur; students, teachers and administrators from Pittsburgh’s Obama High School and members and leaders from the Youth Media Advocacy Program all galvanized together to make it happen. By winter, the Pittsburgh Obama High School Cooking Club was rolling.

Every Tuesday afternoon, 18 high school students gather at a kitchen in Obama High School to learn from some of the City’s great chefs, who gladly and generously donated their time to teach.

Working from the grassroots, Kelsey and Bobby led the club, bootstrapping as they raised funds. An eleven course dinner cooked by the City’s great chefs raised over $9,000. The money raised funded knives, cutting boards, cookbooks, a table that the kids use to eat their communal meal at the end of each class.

Food Revolution Day 2013

Food Revolution Day 2013 was a special event at Obama High School. Taking over the entire football field on a gorgeous spring day, 8 chefs and restaurants teamed up with groups of students and made dishes that aimed to rework traditional fare served at school. Farmers, food and health organizations joined in the celebration that drew the entire school, their families and members of the community.

What does the club hope to achieve by the end of this school year? Kelsey: “I want to start small and have a direct impact on the kids. I want to meet the kids where they are and inspire students to be curious, to start a conversation, to create excitement about food education.” Bobby: “This first year, I want to make sure we do it well. Then I want to transfer to more schools and make it a larger part of the school curriculum.”

Already, Bobby is working with another High School, Brashear, heading there once a week to share breakfast with the students and working toward getting a salad bar in their lunch room.

As the program grows, the goal is to be able to support other schools to start their own cooking club and to empower older kids to be the teachers.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools operate 65 schools, very few of which have a working kitchen. Pittsburgh Obama High School is one of them. It’s the perfect place to start a revolution.

The Pittsburgh Online Food Revolution

In April 2013, Andrew T. Stephen’s 62 MBA students from The Katz Business School at the University of Pittsburgh were divided into 9 teams and challenged to deploy a content-driven social media marketing campaign to promote Food Revolution Pittsburgh and the Obama High School Cooking Club.

The students were tasked with three things: develop a content strategy based on video(s), develop a social media “viral” dissemination strategy and run their social media campaign for 10 days (April 8-17, 2013)

The videos covered a variety of topics from the dangers of unhealthy eating for children, to educating parents about healthy school lunches to information about Food Revolution.

What resulted was nothing short of astounding.

23 videos were created by 9 teams resulting in 57,998 views on YouTube between April 8 and 17, 2013. One team decided to run a fundraiser, aiming to raise $2,000 for cooking club in 10 days. They raised $2,140 from 108 generous contributors!

With $0 dollars and the passion to spread the word, we can raise awareness for healthy food and inspire everyone to cook it, share it and live it!

Check out some of these great videos!

Food Revolution Pittsburgh
Food Revolution Lunch Wars
Do you know what you’re eating for lunch today?

About the author: Leah Lizarondo is the Chief Veghacker, recipe creator and curator at The Brazen Kitchen, where she writes about food and food policy. It was awarded one of the Top 50 Vegetarian Blogs in 2012 by the Institute of the Psychology of Eating and The Brazen Kitchen on Pittsburgh Magazine recently won the 2013 City & Regional Magazine Award for Best Blog.
Leah received her Masters Degree in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University graduating with Highest Distinction and is an advocate for urban farming, healthy food accessibility, food safety policy and sustainability.
She serves as one of the Trustees at the national Awesome Foundation: Food, serving with leaders and creative innovators in food and the voluntary ambassador for Food Revolution in Pittsburgh.
Leah and her recipes have been featured in print and online publications including POP City, Edible Allegheny, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Our Region’s Business, KDKA Pittsburgh Today Live and national media including MSN’s Re:Discover Series, NPR and on Oprah.com. She writes a weekly food column for Pittsburgh Magazine.

Photo credit: Alaina Webber


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