A barter organization in Berks County is collecting recipes for “Kutztown in the Kitchen” charity cookbook to help Friend Inc. take a stand against hunger.

The recipes are to be featured in a professionally-printed cookbook coming out in April with 100 percent of the profits of the cookbook to benefit Friend, Inc. Community Services, a non-profit social services agency based in Kutztown. Last year, Friend, Inc. distributed 249,478 pounds of food to Northeast Berks citizens experiencing food insufficiency. The agency also offers counseling, money management classes and school supplies, among other services.

The cookbook is being compiled by Maria Wirth and Scott Martz of Business Owners Trade Alliance, a barter organization serving businesses in Berks County and the surrounding region.

The idea for the cookbook came to mind when Wirth was asked to participate in a friendly baking competition for Friend’s 30th Annual Benefit Auction. She is one of five Executive Bakers competing to raise funds, amongst representatives from Kutztown University, Deka Batteries, Main Street Getaways and Kutztown Printing.

She wanted to tie her fundraising to the mission of the food pantry.

“Whether you’re contributing a recipe or buying the cookbook, you’re helping people put food on the table. It’s like a circle of love,” said Wirth. “I also wanted businesses to get value from it. I think having a recipe in the cookbook offers a unique way for a business to get recognized by potential customers. It’s not just an opportunity for restaurants. The trend is in favor of business owners who share who they are and what they believe in, not just what they do. This has become an important part of many consumers’ buying decisions.”

Martz is excited to get a chance to connect with restauranteurs. He's seeking recipes from local restaurants, farm market stands and specialty grocers as well as chefs like himself who like to cook at home.

“I spent years in the culinary world; everything from being an executive chef to food quality assurance for Disney. I grew up in Berks County so after graduating from Johnson and Wales, I had the honor to work in some great kitchens in the area: Chef Alan, The Highlands of Wyomissing, The Wood Company and the Chat-A-While. I have a lot of respect for people who own restaurants and food businesses. It’s a lot of work. I think they need more ideas like this to compete, things that don’t cost a lot of money.”

Wirth and Martz were able to barter for the printing and design work to hold down costs as well as donating their time spent on the project. They are offering members barter advertising in the cookbook. This is allowing all cash profits to go to the food pantry.

They are now accepting recipes for the cookbook. The cookbooks are $10 and will be released in late April. They are accepting pre-orders for the cookbook which will be available at several locations in the area including Go Fish Seafood Market at the Fairgrounds Square Farmers Market.

There is a $25 donation being requested to submit a recipe. The recipe may include a short description of the business, an address and website. Advertising space is also available on a limited basis. People are encouraged to share a personal story or dedicate the recipe to a loved one. Everyone in the community is welcome to have their recipe published.

Many of the recipes which have been shared are old family favorites and have a lot of emotion attached to them.

For instance, Deborah Berger of Hasch Daal Custom Embroidery, Silk Screening and Promotional Items submitted a cookie recipe to honor a special person in her life, her grandmother. She talked about how much love she felt in her grandmother’s kitchen.

Paola Lambert, owner of Camillo’s Italian Restaurant, Pizzeria and Bar, shared her Italian Wedding Soup recipe. She had to translate from Italian as she wrote down the words. She explained that she had learned it from her mother and it had never been written down.

Wirth knew this was something she had to do when Friend, Inc. asked for her help.

“I didn’t know how I would contribute at first but I said yes right away. I believe in what they are doing,” said Wirth. “Things happen that put people in a position they never thought they would be. It happened in my family. My brother recently came to live with us because of a medical issue. He will not be able to work for many months. Not everyone has someone who can help in this type of situation. People can’t go weeks and months without food until things turn around. Since I started doing this, I have heard people say there is no way people could be without food in Northeast Berks County. This is not true.”

To submit a recipe, contact Maria Wirth, mwirth@botatrade.com, 484-225-6063.

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