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Guest Column, Scott Wiener: The Slice Out Hunger Pizza Party

Written By Scott Wiener
Tuesday, 22 November 2016 Guest Columns

Note from Peter: Scott Wiener, a regular Pizza Quest Guest Columnist, is back to report on an amazingly successful fund raising event in NYC that may soon be showing up in other cities.  Scott’s column highlights to me the grace that flows to and through people who have a vision, a passion, and the willingness to simply “go for it!”  Scott’s Pizza Tours began as a college hobby and soon grew into a full time career; the career led to an opportunity to give back to the community, as you will read here, and now the Slice Out Hunger Pizza Party looks like a growing, national movement. Kudo’s to Scott, John Arena (who’s on their Board), and all the staff and volunteers who jumped in to make this event happen. Hey, we knew you when and, readers, when this takes off around the country, remember that you heard about it here first.

 

Slice Out Hunger’s $1 Pizza Party

Lines around the block!!!

Lines around the block!!! (photos courtesy of Dee Guerreros, http://www.deeshoots.com/ )

As I looked around the room, I saw paradise. It was October 5, 2016 and over a thousand pizza makers and pizza eaters surrounded me, all with blissful faces. This was our eighth annual Slice Out Hunger event, which raises money for local NYC hunger relief organizations by selling donated slices from some of the city’s top pizzerias for just $1 each. That’s it; no catch. We had fifty-six of NYC’s top pizzerias represented, including five with mobile trucks and ovens parked outside the venue. There were local companies serving drinks, desserts, raffle tickets, and even NYC-based Greenbox distributing pizza boxes so people could transport their slices. Attendees lined up three hours before we opened the doors and by the time the event began there was a queue around the entire block. If you asked me to look into the future when I organized my first pizza charity event in 2009 I wouldn’t have come close to predicting the $50,000 we generated at our eighth annual event last month.

It all started with a favor. About a year after I launched my New York Pizza Tour company, I held a celebratory party to thank everyone who supported me that first year. A friend of mine offered her storefront for the event under the condition that the event would be open to the public so she could use the party as a marketing event for her business. I invited some pizzeria owners and asked them to bring some pizzas. Since the event was going to be open to the public I decided we would ask for $1 per slice, which would then be donated to a local hunger relief organization. Since the party was becoming a charity event, I pledged to match every dollar we collected. We raised a few hundred dollars that year!

$50,000 for hunger programs -- who woulda' thunk it?

$50,000 for hunger programs — who woulda’ thunk it?

After the success of our first party, we decided to try it again the following year. Same venue, same $1 per slice. This time we added more pizzerias and advertised the event around the neighborhood. The turnout was incredible with a line down the block. We doubled our fundraising that year and decided it was time to take the popular event more seriously, starting with a bigger venue and more volunteers. My friend, CC Webster, came on board to help grow the project, and that’s when things got real. She coordinated our volunteer list and convinced me to hold organizational meetings before the day of the event so everyone could be on the same page. It worked like a charm, because to date we have raised over $150,000 for hunger relief campaigns in NYC, with over 65% of that coming in over the past year.

Pizza party!!!

Pizza party!!!

 

If this year’s event is any indication, the trajectory of Slice Out Hunger is heading far beyond the five boroughs. Pizza makers flew in from across the country to help serve pizza on the night of the event. Derek Sanchez and Joey Hernandez came in from Mia Marco’s in ScheSan Antoniortz, TX; Phil Korshak repped Home Slice Pizza in Austin, TX; John Arena, who is on the Slice Out Hunger board, came out for his second event from Metro Pizza in Las Vegas. We also had support from the pizza industry itself, with sponsorships from J. Campagna and Sons pizzeria distribution, Slice online pizza ordering (formerly MyPizza), Orlando Foods, Grande Cheese, and the aforementioned GreenBox. Additional sponsorships came from Chow Now, Caviar, Uber, Brewla (brewed ice pops), and a NYC metro area distributor called The Bag Lady.

Check list of pizzerias. (photo by Dee Guerrero)

Check list of pizzerias. (photo by Dee Guerreros)

Much has changed since we ran our first event eight years ago. We’re a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit with a volunteer list of over 300 members. This February, we’re launching a program called the Slice Out Special. Pizzerias feature a limited edition pizza for the month of February and a $1 from each sale goes to Slice Out Hunger, who redistributes all funds to local hunger relief organizations across the country. We’re also building a network of campus groups that focus on community development to expand the $1 Pizza Party program to colleges nationwide.

 

Slice Out Hunger isn’t just a charitable nonprofit, it’s also a way for the pizza industry to unite for the common good. Pizzerias have always been social places and that’s part of what attracts us to them. The most fun of any pizza quest comes from our interactions with the people we meet along the way. Our event encourages attendees to pool their resources and work together to collect slices from as many of the 50+ pizzerias as possible. They sit down together to eat together. Slice Out Hunger also pulls together pizza makers from all over the city and gives them a chance to interact outside of their shops. Looking around the room at last month’s event, I saw some of the best pizza makers in New York excited to see one another. The vibe infected the 1,000+ attendees.

John Arena and pizza champion, Nino Coniglio

John Arena and pizza champion, Nino Coniglio

 

After all, pizza is the ultimate communal food. It tastes best when you’re sharing it with someone you care about. Even better is when every slice you eat funds meals for people in need. Most people reading this are fortunate to be able to treat food like entertainment, but the truth is that too many people can’t afford the basics. Slice Out Hunger is the pizza community’s way of giving back to our neighbors by celebrating our favorite dish.

 

If you’re interested in participating in a Slice Out Hunger event or campaign, please email me here. Mail to: sliceouthunger@gmail.com   To donate, please visit SliceOutHunger.org.

It takes a village of volunteers -- thanks to you all.

It takes a village of volunteers — thanks to you all.

 

 

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