America was founded upon a set of unalienable rights and principles, among them the rights to free speech, to assembly, and to vote. Those rights are tested in periods of crisis or disillusionment, and they have always come out intact, perhaps battered by the storm but stronger for it.
While these privileges may have been hard-won by generations of activists of eras past, one group hopes to make it a bit easier to get out and perform your civic duties—by sending pizza to voters and protesters.
Pizza to the Polls began sending our nation’s most beloved bread-and-cheese configuration to voters stuck in long lines during the 2016 general election. Knowing how uncomfortable and how big of a hassle it can be to vote, the pizza was meant to provide a bit of a boost to those who took the time to participate in the electoral process. The group takes no political stance, and sent food wherever it was needed during the election—they ultimate sent nearly 2,400 pizzas to voters waiting to punch their ballots.
“It was started in response to the reporting on long lines at polling places and seeing if there was anything we could do to help,” Scott Duncombe, who founded Pizza to the Polls with his wife Katie Harlow and friend Noah Manger, told MUNCHIES.
But this past weekend, when thousands gathered at JFK airport to protest Trump’s immigration ban on seven predominantly Muslim countries, Pizza to the Polls’ Twitter account was pinged by people who thought the protesters could use some pizza. In response, Pizza to the Polls arranged to have ten pies sent to the airport from a local NYC pizzeria. (The group searches out and patronizes local pizza spots rather than national chains.)
“I definitely think pizza is a vital part of protesting. People are putting their bodies into uncomfortable spaces for long periods of time to assert their vision for this country,” Duncombe told MUNCHIES. “It’s very like the terrible process we put some people through to cast their vote—forcing them to sacrifice their time, energy, and well being to bring about change.”
There were logistical challenges; unfortunately, by the time the pies arrived, the protesters had dispersed. The delivery person contacted Duncombe to tell him what had happened, and ultimately delivered the pizzas to a nearby shelter.
Pizza to the Polls hopes to continue to provide pizza-based fuel to protesters in the future, and are looking into ways to better coordinate with marches and sit-ins. One option might be directly channeling money to organizers, who can then order pizzas themselves (and choose their own toppings). The group currently raises funds through its website; so far, more than $43,000 has been contributed.
“I think providing pizza, or comfort, is the least we can do to support these people,” Duncombe told MUNCHIES. “Pizza warms the heart and it’s a naturally shareable food—it brought voters and polling place workers together and it can bring protesters together in the same way.”Pizza to the Polls wasn’t the only one sending pizzas to JFK to support protesters this past weekend; one family sent a whopping 30 pies to the airport. Protesters were thankful for their pizza angels, and said that the pies simply “appeared.”
Will pizza provide a path forward? One thing is for sure—everybody can unite behind Americans’ shared love of mozzarella and pepperoni.