A dollar-a-slice pizza shop in Philadelphia has encouraged its customers to give over 9,000 free slices of pizza to the homeless.
Rosa’s Fresh Pizza owner, Mason Wartman, started up a Pay It Forward scheme in March 2013 after a customer asked if they could buy an extra slice for someone in need.
Mason says Rosa’s now serves around 40 homeless people every day, and that his customers have generously bought close to 9,500 pizza slices in the past 10 months.
“My customers love the opportunity to help out,” the 27-year-old told INSP.
“The homeless people really use the program as a flexible way to get access to food. One Monday, a homeless customer said that because we were closed on a Sunday, they hadn’t ate anything since Saturday. That blew my mind.”
After his first customer asked to have an extra slice of pizza given to the hungry, Mason says he wrote a smiley face on a Post-It note and stuck it up on one of the walls of his shop.
Today, a sea of neon Post-Its bearing messages from people who have done the same are plastered all over Rosa’s.
Among them are heartfelt messages from those who have come in for a free slice of pizza.
A message written on a paper plate by Rob H, a homeless veteran who often visits Rosa’s, reads: “God bless you, because of you I ate off this plate. It’s the only thing I ate all day. I am a homeless veteran and get treated rudely when I ask for help. Rosa’s treats me with respect.”
Another homeless customer writes: “I’ve been homeless in Philly for six years and I’m so happy to see people coming together and really making a difference in the community. Rosa’s is a great start to changing the way homeless people are treated. God bless you all.”
While Mason didn’t necessarily set out to feed roughly 1% of Philadelphia’s homeless every day, the business owner is thrilled at what Rosa’s Pay It Forward pizza scheme has achieved.
“Homelessness is a visible pervasive problem in Philadelphia,” adds Mason. “It’s important for Rosa’s to be extremely good at something and use this to improve the community. Feeding the homeless like we do is the best way we can use our talents as a company.”
As well as providing homeless people with some comfort food, Rosa’s is now clothing them too and pointing them in the direction of homeless services.
Mason has started selling t-shirts with the help of clothing company, Rush Order Tees, and donates 50% – the equivalent of seven slices of pizza – for every sale.
Also on offer are sweatshirts. For every one purchased, another sweatshirt is donated to the homeless and has a large tag sewn on the inside that details homeless resources in the city.
Mason explains: “On the inside of the sweatshirt there is a tag of information the homeless person can use: phone numbers and locations for shelters, meals and computer classes. Hopefully this will encourage the homeless person to structure their day productively, acquire durable skills and improve their lives.
“It’s one of the most exciting things I’ve worked on.”
You can find out more by visiting the Rosa’s Fresh Pizza Facebook page.