Alexandria, VA – Christina and Mike Hoffman of Alexandria often made pizza on Friday nights for their two boys. When the pandemic hit, it became a little challenging for a while to locate flour and yeast. They turned to Restaurant Depot, who had lifted their members-only policy and welcomed all shoppers.
Christina laughed, “We picked up a 55-pound bag of flour. Mike saw it and said, ‘Let’s buy it.’ It was crazy!” They resumed making pizza, and started giving the cooked pizzas to friends and neighbors. Mike was trying new recipes out and the recipients were only too happy to take the pizzas off the Hoffmans’ hands.
“It turned into a bit of a meal exchange,” said Christina. “We handed out pizza and sometimes neighbors would bring dinner to us which was always a welcome break from cooking.”
After a while, they looked beyond friends and decided to open it up to people who were struggling from COVID fatigue. They wanted to be a bright spot in what was becoming a dreary existence. The Hoffmans thought they could make pizza for frontline workers, teachers, social workers, firefighters, etc. “We wanted to give them a night off, show a little love through pizza, and let them know someone was thinking about them.”
They decided to call it Random Acts of Pizza and created a Facebook page so people could nominate recipients. And then, Mike said, “Well, that’s when we started making pizzas for strangers.” Before too long, there were firefighters and teachers coming to their house to pick up pizza.
The silver linings of COVID often arrive in creative ways, as Random Acts of Pizza proves. Fun, thoughtful and different, the pizza project’s pay-it-forward aspect appeals to nominators and recipients alike.
A family friend asked the Hoffmans, why not sell these? Christina and Mike didn’t want anyone to feel obligated to pay anything, but if people wanted to contribute something, it should go to charity. They didn’t want to handle any of the money, so they asked folks to donate directly to the charities, then come pick up their pizzas. The Hoffmans suggested Food for Neighbors as their first nonprofit, and they also pegged a Foster Teen Gift Drive earlier this month. “We’re focusing on older kids and food-related organizations,” said Christina.
They typically make the pizzas on Friday nights, though Mike prepares the dough earlier in the week. A busy night will see them making 12-14 pizzas. That 55-pound bag of flour yields about 160 pizzas. They invested in a baking steel for their home oven that makes it equivalent to baking in 900-degree oven. And they stock up on the ubiquitous white cardboard pizza boxes from Restaurant Depot.
“We’ve improved our process, and can make 6 or even 7 pizzas in an hour,” said Mike. Working at home definitely helps with timing, and they prep all the ingredients for their mise en place. In addition to cheese and pepperoni pizza, the menu includes cheesesteak, Italian hoagie, Greek, BBQ, and Buffalo chicken pizzas (all listed in a photo on their Facebook page).
The Hoffmans do take a break from time to time. They vacationed at the beach over the summer and went to their favorite pizza place. Mike and Christina both laughed when they recalled, “Our reaction, including our boys, was, hmm, not as good as ours.”
If you’d like to nominate a deserving someone to receive a Random Act of Pizza, visit their Facebook page for more information or to send a message.