Ariel Pasternak (far left) and panelists at a Pineapple DC event. Photo by Raisa Aziz.

You can’t (really) find Pineapple DC on social media. The organization doesn’t attract members by posting artsy photos and recruiting young women to come out and participate. The organization spreads its message of women’s empowerment through a shared love of local, delicious foods, the old fashioned way: by meeting and talking.

“The idea that you can’t find Pineapple online is reflective of the homegrown nature of it and spreading it by word of mouth, focusing more of it on the community aspect instead of the brand aspect of it,” Ariel Pasternak, founder of Pineapple DC, tells DC Inno.

Ariel Pasternak

After moving from New York City to Washington, D.C., Pasternak started Pineapple because she couldn’t find the type of women’s group she was looking for here. Inspired by professional groups in NYC, she decided to bring people together who want to create a better food system.

Pasternak works at Chaia, a ‘farm-to-taco’ vegan and vegetarian women-owned restaurant in Georgetown. She helped start the restaurant and it’s where she realized her desire to highlight women in the D.C. food community.

A lot of women who play a role in the D.C. food scene don’t know each other, Pasternak says. The ‘good food movement’ that she embraces connects educators, farmers, policy advocates, non-profits and others to start conversations on the different ways these people fit into the process of farming local food.

“I think food can be a part of the conversation of innovation,” says Pasternak. “It definitely adds a whole lot of richness to living in and around D.C.”

“I think food can be a part of the conversation of innovation,”

The group of women—and a few men—assembles around a single, private Facebook page, which anyone can request to join. With 107 members and growing, it has become a fun community, Pasternak said. The message board on Facebook lets people know about events and serves as a platform to meet others. Its main purpose is to bring people together through events with great food and speakers. Unsurprisingly, attendees are always well fed. “They always have to have delicious food and drink. We made that a priority of our events.”

Pineapple members at the Chaia x Hot Bread Kitchen x Gordy’s Pickle Jar event. Photo by Raisa Aziz.

Because the organization is event-driven and she needed a hand, Pasternak brought on Ann Yang of Misfit Juicery as her co-collaborator.

“She is so smart and has many great ideas,” Pasternak says. “She sees the challenges and opportunities of being a women in food just like I do.”

One example of these challenges in the DC food scene is the small fraction of female restaurant owners and chefs. Another challenge Pasternak addresses is women who feel there is an unhealthy relationship with food in their lives.

“[There is an] idea that we as women are not raised to love ourselves and feed ourselves with kindness and compassion, and a lot of this is fostered in our relationship with food,” Pasternak notes.

A woman’s relationship with food echoes to Pineapple’s four pillars. At each event, Pasternak makes sure to touch on all four in some capacity, and there have been six events so far.

The pillars:

  1. Feminism: emphasizing women’s empowerment.
  2. Wellness: including personal wellness and wellness of the community.
  3. Entrepreneurship: this is the strongest theme throughout the events so far, and encompasses topics like innovative ways to go about farming.
  4. Social Good: creating a better food system.

Pasternak has been called a “gatherer of food in DC.” Some have called her an authority for women in not only the social and traditional media side of food, but the not-so-sexy side of the food industry, she said jokingly, where she works. She feeds off the energy of her group because it’s a space where everyone feels included, she said.

The Pineapple DC logo, created by Decent Workshop, a women-founded creative agency.

The name of the organization comes from the traditional idea that pineapples are a symbol of hospitality.

“Why not pineapple?” Pasternak asks. “It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Networking and women’s empowerment can always be seen very seriously so I wanted this to be something fun and enjoyable.”

The idea of using a fruit as a name came from the Cherry Bombe, a biannual magazine that celebrates women and food. She attended its yearly conference, Jubilee, in March 2014 and met likeminded women with whom she wanted to share ideas.

Her idea of bringing women in food together started in NYC where she hosted themed potluck dinners at friends’ apartments and offices. She invited women  who were passionate about food and women’s contributions to the industry, collected business cards and got a network going.

Now, Pineapple DC is a catalyst for women to come together and share ideas. It is a platform where awesome collaborations happen, Pasternak said.

“We can really leverage our network,” says Pasternak. “The purpose of these events is not only to bring people together but not push networking, but also to highlight the work of women in our community who are doing great things. As women we are a powerful bunch,” she continues. “They [the speakers] don’t have to be the most well known, they are welcome and their ideas and presence is welcomed for who they are.”