ABOUT

Christopher's Kitchen About Page Graphic, Featuring the Text: Christopher's Kitchen Serving Families Caring for Kids. The image also features two pictures, one of a blonde woman named Joni, the Founder of Christopher's Kitchen, and the other of a teenage boy, named Christopher, who is the inspiration behind Christopher's Kitchen.

Our Story

In 2010, shortly after the tragic death of her 16-year-old stepson, Christopher, Joni D’Alessandro decided to work through her grief by stepping outside of herself and helping others. Joni, a professional hairdresser, found herself at UPMC Children’s Hospital’s monthly “Coffee House,” where parents and caregivers have a chance to relax, socialize, and get a manicure or massage.

 

While spending time with the families at the hospital, Joni became immersed in their situations. She realized that many of these families did not have the ability to feed themselves or their other children while they were at the hospital. What she saw and heard broke her heart. But it also instilled in her the desire and motivation to do something.

 

In 2017, Joan “Joni” D’Alessandro decided it was time for action. She had been volunteering at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh for several years and continued to hear stories from parents that tugged at her heart. She couldn’t wait any longer.

 

Joni began to talk to friends, clients, and family members about her desire to help. She told everyone about the families who were staying with their children in the hospital, while hungry and emotionally drained.

 

She thought that if there were a way to get food to these caregivers so that they didn’t have to leave their child’s side, this would help their situation greatly. She also established that the food needed to be free so that no parent had to worry about their child or their finances while in the hospital.

 

Joni and a few friends met with staff at the Children’s Hospital Foundation, and the idea for a food pantry that was accessible to all parents, families, and caregivers was born. With their help and guidance, they began a free food pantry in the emergency department at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh - this was the start of Christopher’s Kitchen, named in honor of Joni’s late stepson, and the experiences from that which led her to start the food pantry.

 

Since that first meeting, we have expanded and are now serving families throughout UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and now Magee Women's Hospital as of 2023. We deliver bags of food and maintain pantries in several hospital units, as well as CHP Child Advocacy Centers located throughout Allegheny County.

 

We plan to continue opening pantries and delivering food bags to various hospital units so that all caregivers who are hungry while they wait with their child have immediate access to food.

This has been made possible with an all-volunteer staff, donations from family and friends, and grants from our partners at The Pittsburgh Foundation, as well as The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation.

 

Christopher’s Kitchen is a 501c3 non-profit. Our board of directors is entirely volunteer-based, and we receive assistance from countless volunteers. In 2021, we opened an office in Ben Avon, PA.

 

Christopher’s Kitchen started by taking grief and turning it into good for others. Our mission is to serve families caring for kids. If you’d like to partner with us, you can donate on our donation page, or find out how to get involved on our Ways to Help page.

Christopher's Kitchen Quick Facts

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Fully stocked pantries maintained at UPMC Children’s Hospital, and two pantries at Children’s Home & Lemieux Family Center.

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Hydration Stations installed at Children’s Hospital to provide free water for families visiting.

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Average number of families helped every year.

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Satellite UPMC Children’s Hospital Community Care Centers provided with bags of free food based on need, consisting of four meals for a family of four.

“The Food Bags provided through Christopher’s Kitchen have been a much-needed asset to our team at the Child Advocacy Center and ARCH clinic. Helping to provide the basic needs for our children and families has become easier thanks to this partnership.”


—Team Member at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh

Board Members

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Joni D’Alessandro

President/Founder

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Carol Hesz

Vice President

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Barb Steinour

Board Member

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Joyce Smith

Treasurer

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Kate McDermott

Board Member

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Dr. Erin. Sullivan

Board Member

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Maura Perri

Board Member

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Dave Soltesz

Board Member