Pepsi opted out of the most expensive and coveted advertising time slot of the year: Super Bowl XLIV. Instead, the company announced it was placing its ad dollars in community projects, such as its new Pepsi Refresh Project. The initiative allows regular folks to apply for grants of $5,000, $25,000, $50,000, and $250,000 to fund various community projects, which are then voted on by visitors to the Pepsi Refresh Project website. One such proposal is to take New York’s Vendy Awards nationwide.
“Street food has become a national phenomenon,” says Sean Basinski, director of the Street Vendor Project and founder of the Vendy Awards. “The idea of street vendor rights is becoming a national movement. There’s increased recognition of what food vendors bring to a city. Not just with regard to the food, but for the whole community.”
The idea to take the Vendys on the road was conceived as a fundraising effort, but the event tends to use up more funds than it makes. So, when Basinski heard about Pepsi’s community project competition, he decided to apply. And, with the Street Vendor Project getting calls from vendors around the country who don’t have local organizations, exporting the Vendys to other cities could help inspire communities to form their own groups.
“It’s an issue that touches on immigration,” says Basinski. “Across the country, most street vendors are immigrants. In Chicago, [where food carts were recently banned in certain areas], vendors are literally gathering in church basements. We’ve learned a lot doing this, and it’s something we can [teach others].”
Voting at RefreshEverything.com continues throughout the month. The Vendy Awards National Tour project is currently at no. 97 (it must make the top 10 to be considered).
“Realistically, we may not make it,” says Basinski. “But we’re hopeful.”