Jam City: Spreading The Cure For Hunger

Toledo Local Features  |  By Michael Pierce  |  05/22/2015 1:00 pm

Jam City is a one-of-a-kind event that brings together some of the best chefs in the area with Food For Thought - a local nonprofit aimed at feeding the hungry.  Now in its third year, Jam City has helped Food For Thought continue to expand throughout the Toledo area. “Our flagship program is making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and taking them downtown to distribute to those in need”, says program director Jill Bunge.  This special event showcases the creative minds of area chefs - pushing the boundaries of the iconic PB & J into the realm of gourmet food.     

Tell us how it all got started.

“Food For Thought is a nonprofit that began in 2007 with a passion for feeding the hungry. I’ve been with the organization for about a year and a half now, and took over as director last September. We started making 50 sandwiches a week and now we’re up to 350 a week.  At first we were a stationary, but now our focus is on our mobile food pantry. This is the third year for Jam City. We’ve sold out the last two years and we expect to sell out this year as well.

How has teaming up with the for-profit sector worked out?

“We’ve had a really successful track record of working with for-profit food entities.  We’re a giving community and I think there is a sensible overlap between what we’re doing in the nonprofit sector and the for-profit sector. We’re happy to showcase amazing Toledo food because that one of the highlights of this city.  All of the chefs involved have really elevated the standard peanut butter and jelly sandwich to such a creative and unique thing.  I’m really excited to see what they dream up.”

What were some of your favorites from last year?

“Last year the Durty Bird had peanut butter covered chicken wings with a strawberry dipping sauce.  El Tipico made a strawberry salsa that was amazing, and the Ottawa Tavern made a burger with peanut butter and strawberries. People think that it’s going to be a lot of sweet things, but the savory creations are really cool to see.  The winner last year was Balance Grille. They did a chicken lettuce wrap with peanuts and fresh strawberries.”

What’s new for this year?

“We’re in the same space as last year - the Secor ballroom attached to Registry Bistro. They’ve donated that space to us for the past few years.  It’s a really beautiful space and very conducive to the event. This year we’ll have a photo booth, and we had local glass artist Sten Neuber design a glass peanut butter and jelly as the award.  We’re calling the winner the “Grand Jam-pion”. This year we’re going to have more ambient music and keep the spotlight on the food and what Food For Thought is doing. We want to engage with folks more and really showcase the service that we’ve been doing. We’ve gone through quite a bit of transition over the past year - relocating downtown and expanding and continuing to grow.”

Jam City happens on Thursday May 28th from 6pm to 9pm in the Secor Building at 425 Jefferson Avenue.  For tickets and other info, please visit feedtoledo.org/jamcity.  

Following this event, on May 30th, the Ottawa Tavern will host “Jams For Jam City” - a benefit show to support Food For Thought.  This event features Sarah Cohen, Decent Folk, Gazebo, Groove Plexus, Ryan Dunlap, Emily Gesner, Hot Love, Tree No Leaves, and Dissident Cultures.  $5 cover.  For more info click here.