The 2019 Food Pantry Brunch Challenge took place at the New Hazlett Theater in the Northside on Saturday, Jan. 19. This year’s friendly competition had a Bollywood theme, and chefs were challenged to craft dishes including raisins and other ingredients commonly found in food pantries.

Story and photos by Ashlee Green

The seventh annual Food Pantry Brunch Challenge was held at the New Hazlett Theater on Saturday, Jan. 19 to benefit the Northside Common Ministries (NCM) Food Pantry, which provides food and supplies for 850 food-insecure households each month.

This year’s brunch was Bollywood-themed and included high-definition Bollywood music videos, vocal performances by Bollywood Tunes, dance entertainment from students of the Nandanik Dance Academy led by Nandini Mandal, Roosha Mandal and Prajakta Patankar, and free henna tattoos. Chefs from the Greater Pittsburgh Muslim Association, Community Kitchen, Bidwell Culinary School, Pleasant Valley Shelter and Daily Bread participated in a friendly competition with those from Pittsburgh restaurants including That Me Up, Burgh’ers Brewing, Casa Brasil, Smith’s Smoked Meats and Bistro To Go to create the best tasting brunch food option using raisins and other ingredients commonly found in food pantries. The event was organized by Jay Poliziani, Director of NCM.

Northside Common Ministries (NCM) is an affiliate of Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Established in 1982 by a group of 30 churches, the nonprofit’s mission is to help meet the needs of the homeless population. According to NCM’s website, they are “committed to building bridges that connect our neighbors in need to an improved quality of life while tearing down the walls that keep the hungry and homeless from success.” For more information about NCM including how to volunteer, visit

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Bidwell Culinary School as an organization which trains low-income individuals and ex-offenders for careers in the culinary industry. This is actually the mission of Community Kitchen.

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