At the beginning of the year, Don Mahaney, owner of Scratch Food & Beverage, couldn’t have predicted he would be running the Vinial Street Stairs in Troy Hill to raise awareness and donations for the food insecure, meals for seniors and restaurant workers currently out of work.
But that’s just one of the many ways that Scratch Food & Beverage has pivoted during the pandemic to fulfill the shifting food and monetary needs of Pittsburgh.
“The run was 53 seconds, down from 61 seconds last week,” said Mahaney of his run this past Monday. “Hoping people sponsor that improvement and kick a little donation on our website to help us fund the work we are doing that has no dedicated revenue stream attached to it.”
Here’s how Scratch’s COVID Step Run donation works: Sponsorships start at $4 per meal, and contributors can use this donation link to pledge to purchase meals, based on the amount of seconds that Mahaney can shave off of his time each week. For instance, this week, Mahaney beat his previous time by eight seconds. So, if you sponsored $4 for each meal, you donated $32 for eight meals to be distributed.
“That kind of motivation will get a guy in shape, for sure,” said Mahaney.
In addition to running those 177 steps each month, the team at Scratch Food & Beverage has been doing a lot of community outreach during the COVID-19 pandemic. They were one of the first restaurants to convert to a grocery model where customers can purchase pantry items, prepared food and even personal care items (Pro tip: Geraniums have even been added to the menu for Mother’s Day). They deliver to nearly all of Allegheny County (delivery is free on Fridays!) and timed curbside pick-up is available as well.
“We are nowhere near understanding the ramifications of this pandemic,” said Mahaney. “Keeping people safe (that is, from having to compromise themselves in order to get food) is the very least we can do.”
Scratch F&B is also aiming to keep food accessible. They use a “pay what you will” model, the first restaurant-converted-grocery store to do so.
A $0 price is attached to prepared food items in the “Heat Me and Eat Me” and “Keep Me Cool” sections as well as the “Bakery,” “Meats” and “Produce” sections. When you check out, if you are able to pay, enter what you believe to be a fair amount in the tip section. “If you can’t afford to pay anything, don’t worry,” said Scratch Food & Beverage on a recent Instagram post. “No judgment and no questions asked. Place your order as you would normally and come on in and pick it up at no charge. We’re in this together.”
They are also working towards accepting ACCESS payment. If you don’t see an item you need, email them and they will work to find it.
Mahaney isn’t the only one in the Scratch Food & Beverage family using his resources for good. Mark Ferelli, the restaurant’s delivery driver, donates $3 of every $10 delivery fee to TABLE Magazine’s Food and Restaurant Service Emergency Fund.
“This is about our mission, our cause: to create a space where friendly paths intersect so that the whole world can come to look like home for a time,” said Mahaney. “The world is a scary place. It used to be that we offered a bit of sanctuary for our neighbors. Now, we bring that sense of home and belonging to the community itself. If anything, this work feels more essential.”
Scratch Food & Beverage (1720 Lowrie Street)