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In October 2014, Josh Whiteside met with a group of senior citizens at Northside Coalition Senior Housing to learn about the issues facing their neighborhood of California-Kirkbride. “We sat down and ate dinner and talked,” says Whiteside, the development director of Beverly’s Birthdays. “It was a very organic way to meet.”

Whiteside is a participant in the Leadership Development Initiative (LDI) class, the nine-month program for emerging leaders run through Leadership Pittsburgh. His class of 50 participants was broken into groups of seven and met with community members on the Northside for a meal, most served in people’s homes.

One thing that was at the forefront of these conversations “was their ability to get fresh food and local produce—they want more than just a drug store,” Whiteside says. To get fresh food, “they have to shop out of their neighborhood.”

To bring awareness to the issue of limited food accessibility, this Saturday the streets and parklet in the California-Kirkbride neighborhood of the Northside will be the site of Fresh Fest, a free community festival based on the farm-to-table concept. LDI partnered with Northside Coalition for Fair Housing to throw this one-day event, which also aims to spotlight the California-Kirkbride neighborhood’s ongoing revitalization.

Fresh Fest, which runs from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., will include:

  • A cook-off between residents and local chefs such as Bill Fuller of big Burrito. The panel of judges will include residents, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Josh Verbanets from The Josh & Gab Show, a musical comedy anti-bullying show.
  • Farm Truck Foods—Pittsburgh’s first mobile grocery that brings fresh produce to neighborhoods with limited access—will make its debut at Fresh Fest with fruit kabobs and veggie pizzas that kids can make themselves.
  • Phipps Conservatory will demo a healthy eating app, the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh will show kids how to make stamps out of fruits and veggies and the Carnegie Science Center will host science food experiments and other hand-on activities. Also for kids—or limber adults—there will be a game of Fruit-and-Veggie Twister.

Farm Truck Foods, Giant Eagle and other vendors will have “lots of food for all,” says Whiteside. “If you’re into food and live in Pittsburgh, we want you there!”

LDI XXII is the 22nd group of young leaders to run through Leadership Pittsburgh’s emerging leaders course, and at the end of the year, the graduating class hosts an event. For the past seven years, LDI teams have hosted PopUp! Pittsburgh events in Uptown, Hilltop neighborhoods, Mt. Washington, Larimer and other communities.

Lauri Gravina

Woods wanderer who was an an editor at New England’s regional magazine, the research director of a Colorado newspaper and a farm hand in Vermont before returning to Pittsburgh to write about and explore...