As a person with a passion for cooking since she was in second grade and a former longtime food editor for the Courier Journal, Sarah Fritschner’s go-to when it’s “time to gather people around” is a meal.
So, when she wanted to “gather” others to donate to progressive political candidates, it was inevitable that she’d end up doing so with food.
Last year, Fritschner started Pies for Progress to raise money for The States Project, which donates to Democratic candidates running for state legislature in competitive areas. Here’s how it works: You donate to Fritschner’s giving circle, and she’ll make you a gourmet pie. Or a soup. Or a cookie. Or whatever else she has on the menu at the time.
So far, Fritschner has raised $12,295 from 84 donors, with a goal of earning $20,000.
“I think that state legislatures are just often overlooked as seats of power that affect our lives much more than the federal government does,” Fritschner said.
The money Fritschner is raising this year will not go to Kentucky candidates. The States Project strategically picks where it sends money based on where it could possibly win a governing majority. As Kentucky has a Republican supermajority in both chambers, flipping either the House or the Senate is unlikely.
“Could I intervene in Kentucky legislative politics? I would, but it’s so one-sided that there’s nothing that could make any difference,” Fritschner said. “I think that’s why I became interested in this, in the States Project, because you can make a difference in a state where making a difference can affect the national landscape.”
The money Fritschner raises doesn’t go to her at all; She even pays for her own ingredients to make the food.
“I’m donating, and they’re donating,” she said. “So, it’s like I donate a little; they donate more.”
Fritschner changes her Pies for Progress menu every few weeks. The current menu items are a Derby-inspired chocolate nut pie; a chicken tortilla soup with Kentucky farm-raised chicken; pollo en fricassee stew; a simple egg salad; and a dozen Mother’s Day muffins with streusel, glaze and cinnamon sugar filling.
All items this round are $50 or up and carefully curated to fit the time of the year.
“When you are writing about food for a living, you have a mental calendar, so you know what’s coming up,” said Fritschner.
Fritschner got her first cookbook as a child and her first job surrounding cooking in high school, when she would make meals for a man who was a bachelor. She went on to work for the Courier Journal and its predecessor the Louisville Times as the food editor for 25 years.
“I was professionally paid to know and translate home cooking,” she said.
She originally started raising money for the States Project in 2020, just asking people to donate. Last year, she got frustrated by something in the news and turned to what she knew — food. She decided to bake a pie and ask people to donate if they wanted one of their own. A “bunch” of people did.
Now, “it’s just what I do,” said Fritschner. “It’s not something that everyone can do, and I’m not suggesting everybody do it, it’s just what I do.”
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