First Slice Feeds Chicago's Hungry
by meg mathis
First Slice provides high-quality meals to the homeless.
Since opening its first café in Ravenswood in 2006, First Slice has become known for its fresh salads, quiches, sandwiches, and pies. Behind the scenes, though, First Slice has a larger mission: helping to feed the hungry. Members of the organization’s subscriber program enjoy three restaurant-quality meals a week (think pork chops with red wine sauce, horseradish mashed potatoes, and Key lime pie), with a portion of the subscription fee covering the cost of providing similar dishes for the city’s homeless. First Slice Executive Director Ann-Louise Haak shares her thoughts on supporting the entire community—in the giving season and beyond.
How does First Slice’s subscriber program work?
ANN-LOUISE HAAK: The name First Slice comes from our commitment to give the first slice of the pie to those who are hungry—not just the crumbs that are left over at the end of the meal. Every week, we prepare a menu with different entrées; we cook during the week, and families or individuals come in on weekends and get their meals for the week. The point of the subscriber meal program is that making chicken piccata for 200 subscribers is more cost-effective than making chicken piccata for four; the cost savings that were created by cooking in bulk meant that we could provide this same high-quality farm-to-table restaurant-style meal to people in soup kitchens. We base some of our outreach meals every week around the subscriber menu. Dessert pie has been part of the program from the beginning. We went with pie because it is an integrally communal dessert.
First Slice is inspired by pie’s communal qualities.
What’s your favorite pie on the menu?
ALH: That is like asking me which one of my children I love the most. I love the Michigan sour cherry pie; our Key lime is really fabulous, and I often tell people that a slice of our French silk pie is more effective than therapy. “Guilt-free pie,” I call it. Every bite you take is helping somebody else, so you don’t have to worry about the calories.
What does the future hold for First Slice?
ALH: Currently, we’re serving about 600 meals a week for our outreach program; I would love to get up to 1,000 meals a week. And we’re really working on strengthening and broadening our volunteer program. Everybody wants to volunteer on Thanksgiving, or between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I understand why people are especially mindful about giving back during that season of plenty and abundance, but there are hungry people in Chicago 365 days a year, and there are ways that people can give back big and small. 4401 N. Ravenswood Ave., 773-506-7380
photography by couple of dudes photography