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Food & Drink

Locally sourced feast benefits Community Human Services

| Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
The Community Human Service food bank in Oakland offers healthy and nutritious food.
Submitted
The Community Human Service food bank in Oakland offers healthy and nutritious food.
Community Human Services provides fresh produce at its food bank
Submitted
Community Human Services provides fresh produce at its food bank
Tim McLaughlin, head chef for Community Human Services
Submitted
Tim McLaughlin, head chef for Community Human Services
The Community Human Services in Oakland provides fresh produce.
Submitted
The Community Human Services in Oakland provides fresh produce.

Your average fundraiser might be a barbecue with greasy ribs, cole slaw, mass-produced beer and wine, a DJ and an auction of stuff-you-don't-really-want-but-OK.

The Big Share isn't your average fundraiser.

This event boils down to two words: Healthy and high-end. It takes place at — and utilizes food from — Blackberry Meadows Farm, the organic grower in Fawn.

At the Oct. 3 event, five local chefs will bring their best dishes to help the Community Human Services cause.

This is an organization that doesn't just want to feed people in need — but feed them well.

“Part of Community Human Services' mission is to provide healthy and nutritious food to people who face barriers to it,” says Tim McLaughlin, head chef for the group.

In addition to a food pantry in Oakland that serves 1,500 people each month, “we also feed about 200 people a day, who are residents of Wood Street Commons, Downtown,” he says. “We do this through partnership with organizations such as the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and, recently, 412 Food Rescue who both provide us with wholesome produce and meats. We then utilize these ingredients to prepare made-from-scratch meals for our residents at Wood Street Commons.”

The Big Share, like other fundraisers, does have a barbecue — but this will be a pig roast.

For those who don't want to “pig out,” what else will be served by chefs Ariel Alexander, Steve Beachy, Nick Corson, McLaughlin and Justin Lewis?

“We have some great ideas for the rest of the menu,” McLaughlin says, “but they can't be finalized until very near the event, as we will be using predominantly what the farm is harvesting that week — which, as a chef, is such a great opportunity to use the absolute freshest and very local ingredients.”

The theme is organic and hand-crafted. Spak Brothers will be preparing small bites and pizzas for appetizers, paired with a seasonal punch by Butterjoint, Oakland's creative-cocktail home.

Beer will be here. Full-Pint Brewery will pour hand-crafted suds, with Dive Bar and Grille offering a seasonal beer.

In addition to tickling tongues, this event will tantalize ears and eyes. Musical acts include Nameless in August, Ferdinand the Bull, Midnight Rooster and Morgan O'Kane.

Art at the fundraiser is highlighted by Lawrenceville muralist-artist Jeremy Raymer (aka “The Engineer”), who will be “live-designing” a work of art that will be auctioned.

The Big Share will hit a number of Community Human Services check marks.

“It means a number of things,” says Trevor Smith, director of community programs.

“It means we can give more really high-quality, nutrient-dense, local, organic produce to the people that come to the CHS Food Pantry. It means we can tell people about our vision for how food pantries can be different and better.

“It means we can have a really great time with people that care about good food.”

McLaughlin plans to do a little sampling. “I'm really looking forward to Spak Brothers being involved,” he says.

“The Pittsburgh Ice Cream Company's involvement is exciting, too. I mean, who doesn't love ice cream?”

The ice cream will be free. Admission and sales go to helping fund Community Human Services.

This isn't your average fundraiser, and Community Human Services isn't your average food bank.

“Many times,” Smith says, “people that come to a food pantry are offered items that have been donated through food drives, given away by grocery stores or provided by the government — food that isn't highly valued.

“What message does that send to the people receiving that food? What does that communicate about worth? The Big Share will allow us to bring the best food, the food desired by everyone, to the customers of the CHS Food Pantry.”

Tom Scanlon is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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