I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly

. May 19, 2015.

When I’m not feeling my best, I can eat a PB&J and it instantly turns my day around. It’s amazing how powerful something as innocuous as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be. 

For local nonprofit Food For Thought, this lunch staple inspired Jam City on May 28, a third year fundraising event that invites the community to share and celebrate in the comfort and mood-improving qualities of the familiar sandwich. Food For Thought (feedtoledo.org) started 8 years ago with an idea as simple as the sandwich: make PB&Js to hand out to the hungry people in Toledo struggling with food insecurity. “We started by packing fifty PB&J lunches to take downtown and distribute to people, using food as a vehicle to have conversation and build relationships,” explained the organization’s director Jill Bunge.

The simple act of sandwich donation has allowed FFT to grow into multiple mobile food pantries that supplies nutritious food to those in need throughout the area. These pantries travel throughout Toledo, including the regular Saturday morning picnic across from the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library downtown, where FFT volunteers regularly donate prepared lunches and a social atmosphere open to the public.

Outside The Crust

As the sandwich is such a cornerstone for the organization, FFT organized Jam City, the group’s largest yearly fundraiser, by creating a competition between local restaurants to see who could provide the most interesting twist on the “traditional” PB&J,  elevating the sandwich beyond the paper bag lunch. Jam City’s two previous events were sold out and, this year, a similarly large spread is expected. 

“We've had so many wonderful experiences partnering with folks in the for-profit food sector, and I think it's just a sensible collaboration that opens up a lot of opportunity for a fun celebration of food, while supporting our community,” Bunge said.

Most people who enjoy PB&J have their own way of making it. Bunge describes her method as ”peanut butter on both sides: an even layer of jelly in the middle …and, being a crust enthusiast, I sometimes avoid the middle of the PB&J.” But, the entries into Jam City are a little more diverse than that. Previous years’ creative combinations include a pork tenderloin with roasted, pickled grapes and peanut-cashew whipped cream, spicy peanut salsa, and peanut butter covered wings with a jelly sauce (Bunge’s personal favorite from last year).

Participating restaurants – Deets BBQ, Ye Olde Durty Bird, Doc Watson’s, Manhattan’s, Shineology, Balance Pan-Asian Grille, All Crumbs Artisan Bakery, Grumpy’s, Swig, Registry Bistro, El Tipico, and Mancy’s Steakhouse –  will compete for the “Grand Jam-pion” award, which comes with a trophy designed by local glass artist Sten Neuber. 

Kicking out the jams

This year will also include an after-party, Jams for Jam City, a benefit concert held May 30th at the Ottawa Tavern. To expand the reach of the event, program coordinator Sarah Cohen scheduled the concert separately from the main event with herself and area musicians Emily Gesner, The JV Project, Gazebo, Decent Folk, Tree No Leaves, Groove Plexus, Ryan Dunlap and Hot Love. 

Jam City begins at 6pm on May 28th.
$30, tickets are available online at
 feedtoledo.com/jamcity. Secor Ballroom,
425 Jefferson.

Jams for Jam City is 6pm-2am on
May 30th.  $5. The Ottawa Tavern,
1815 Adams St. Find out more at the event’s Facebook page.