Attorneys Mark Flaherty and Mary McKinney Flaherty are self-confessed foodies who, pre-Covid, were regulars on Pittsburgh’s restaurant scene.

Their donation to Allegheny Eats, an at-home meal kit service that supports local hospitality industry workers and suppliers, proves their hearts are even bigger than their appetites.

“We wanted to give back to the people who have given so much to us and the city and, maybe, convince others to do the same,” says Mark Flaherty, whose practice, Flaherty & O’Hara, specializes in national alcohol beverage law.

In 2020, employment in Pennsylvania restaurants dropped by 21 percent due to the pandemic. In December, Sustainable Pittsburgh launched Allegheny Eats with four area businesses preparing the meal kits: Bae Bae’s Kitchen, Black Radish Kitchen, Casa Brasil and The Vandal. A portion of the sales go back into the program to fund free Pro Meals for restaurant staff.

The Flaherty’s donation enabled the Allegheny Eats program to give away 1,600 Pro Meals and add two more eateries to the team, Square Cafe and Scratch F&B. The money has a trickle-down effect, too, generating more revenue for restaurants and the local farms and producers that supply them.

“It’s a delicate food ecosystem. Tens of thousands of livelihoods depend on restaurants,” says Mary McKinney Flaherty, an attorney with Frank, Gale, Bails, Murcko & Pocrass and chair of Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre’s Board of Directors. “There’s also the cultural aspect to it. The food and arts communities are so connected and collaborative. We didn’t want to see that fall away.”

One recent example? From May 18-31, more than 20 local organizations will gather at Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park for Open Air: A Series in Celebration of the Performing Arts. Visitors can grab takeout from a nearby eatery, throw a blanket on the lawn and watch free productions — or support the local arts scene even further by springing for a seat. Tickets are $45 for one program or $65 for both programs.

The Flahertys, who live in East Liberty and serve on numerous arts organization boards, believe that Pittsburgh’s food and culture scenes are going to come back stronger than ever with a little help from the community, whether it’s a family leaving a big tip on a lunch check, an individual buying a ticket to a virtual event or a corporation making a sizable donation.

“We derive so much joy from the arts and restaurants and we are all starved for human companionship and that third-place concept,” Mark Flaherty says. “It doesn’t take a Herculean effort to make a difference; sometimes it’s just picking up the phone and reaching out.”