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Pizza Can Be Good For Our Taste Buds, Communities, And Planet

Vitalii Chernopyskyi

Pizza is recognized as one of the most beloved and versatile meals. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or an unusual fan of pineapple and ham combos, a pie will always be available. While it has always been a hotspot for debate regarding authenticity, how you eat it, and which toppings are superior, there is no denying that it can bring communities together. 

For this year’s National Pizza Day on Feb. 9, we highlight local pizzerias across America going the extra mile to serve great meals, give back to their communities, and care for the environment. 

Grande Jr Pizza Express

Photo Courtesy Grande Jr Pizza Express

Located in Washington, PA, Grande Jr Pizza Express has a history of giving back to its community and proves its devotion with its recent nonprofit, Pizza with Purpose. Patrons can donate through a link on its website, and the business plans to support high school concession stands, donate meals to fundraising events, and give free meals to those in need. 

The owners, Shannon and Tom Grande, recall how it seems as if the responsibility to care for the community gets bigger every year. When asked why they decided to open their nonprofit, Shannon said, “I really missed just giving back, being part of a community. I had done a lot of impactful work. Something was missing.” 

PizzaPlex

Photo Courtesy PizzaPlex

Before PizzaPlex opened its doors in Southwest Detroit, owner Alessandra Carreon knew that she wanted her restaurant to honor her mother’s Neapolitan traditions and her father’s Filipina roots. With the slogan “Pizza, People, Planet,” Carreon not only focuses on serving authentic Italian pies but also makes sure that her restaurant does what it can to limit its environmental impact. 

“My interest in sustainability stems from my experiences in my parents’ home countries, the Philippines and Italy,” Carreon said. “In my father’s rural Filipino town, I saw the ecological destruction wrought by climate change and exacerbated by inequitable development. In Italy, I realized that civic disengagement and ineffective policy led to wealth and health disparities.”

Since 2017, PizzaPlex has adopted numerous eco-friendly practices to live up to the slogan. The shop collects rainwater to water its herb garden, monitors the popularity of menu items and adjusts it to limit food waste, and composts its produce, allowing customers to do so as well.

PizzaPlex has also worked with organizations like EcoWorks and Make Food Not Waste to hold the business accountable and identify improvements on its journey toward a greener future.

Not only does the pizzeria strive to be eco-conscious, but it has formed the Sospeso Collective, a collection of nonprofits in Detroit that work to feed, clothe, house, and educate those in need. The collective works through a pay-it-forward system where they strive to give free meals weekly. 

Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine

Photo Courtesy Shuggie’s Pizza

Combining maximalist aesthetics with a mission to combat food waste, Shuggie’s Trash Pie + Natural Wine has truly lived up to its name as a “Food Waste Paradise.” Located in San Francisco, the restaurant operates under a mission to rescue any irregular and surplus food from going into the trash and upcycle them into their menu. The pizzeria’s grandma-style “trash pies” can include combinations of ingredients such as broccoli leaves, oysters, salt cod, and eggs. 

The business owners, David Murphy and Kayla Abe, recognize that almost half of all food is trashed, making it one of the largest environmental issues. According to Shuggie’s website, Project Drawdown organization said in 2020 that reducing food waste was the most impactful way to combat climate change. 

As Maria C. Ascarrunz’s Mission Local food review put it, “It’s not just talk: These folks are militant about reducing food waste and the overall effect it could have on the world. The brashness of Shuggie’s is the point. The food is exceptionally in-your-face, as is the décor, yet none of it screams ‘You’re eating rotten leftovers!’”

Shuggie’s isn’t the first company for Murphy and Abe inspired by sustainability. The two are also known for their award-winning pickle company, Ugly Pickle Co., where they first ventured into the food rescue practice with an estimated 40,000 lbs of produce saved.

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