Inside Sliver Pizzeria’s new location on Telegraph Avenue, customers are confronted with a massive sign plastered on the wall that reads, “Pizza with a social conscience.”
Since 2013, when it first opened in Berkeley, the pizzeria has been a staple of Berkeley’s unique pizza culture, offering just one choice of speciality pies for patrons to purchase each day. The popular restaurant is even set to open a second location.
The altruistic slogan is meant to reflect the local pizza business’s longtime commitment to fighting human trafficking — the business donates a portion of its profits and its time to nonprofits in the Bay Area and abroad.
Sliver, until recently, claimed on its website to have given monthly “financial and/or moral” donations to at least three anti-human trafficking organizations. Two of these nonprofits, however, have not received donations in at least four years, and one of these nonprofits — Not For Sale, an international San Francisco-based nonprofit — has no record of any donations from Sliver.
The last donation MISSSEY received from Sliver was in 2014, when the Oakland-based nonprofit received two separate $1,000 donations, according to its grants and operations associate, Learkana Chong.
In addition, in total, Sliver’s website encourages its customers to support eight different anti-human trafficking organizations, of which at least three anti-human trafficking nonprofits have never received donations from the local pizzeria itself.
Since at least August 2014, Sliver’s website had stated that “Each month, Sliver makes it a point to provide financial and/or moral support to freedom organizations such as MISSSEY, BAWAR, Not For Sale, and others,” according to captures collected by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine.
And as recently as April 9, that exact statement remained on the business’s website.
After The Daily Californian began investigating Sliver’s donation history in April, Sliver updated the statement to say the company “makes it a point to work as a platform for freedom organizations such as MISSSEY, BAWAR, Not For Sale, and others.”
“As you may know we are one restaurant and we pride ourselves on stretching ourselves as far as we possibly can,” said Sliver’s social ambassador Lauren Irion in an email. “We pride ourselves in bringing awareness and providing resources for people that may need it and financial support when we are able to provide it.”
Spokespeople from Polaris, a national nonprofit that operates the National Human Trafficking Hotline number listed on all Sliver pizza boxes, and from Girls Educational and Mentoring Services, a New York-based nonprofit, confirmed via email that their organizations have never received a financial donation from Sliver.
“Although they do not provide nor have they ever provided moral support, they are raising awareness about human trafficking and are advertising our book on their website,” said Not For Sale operations and donor relations associate Ellie Neilson in an email.
H.E.A.T. Watch, an anti-human trafficking program within the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, has used Sliver as a meeting place in the past — the last time was “probably late 2015 or early 2016,” according to program coordinator Robyn Levinson.
“But we do not regularly receive donations from Sliver Pizza that I am aware of,” Levinson said in an email.
Levinson added, however, that Sliver Pizzeria has given free pizzas to other organizations.
Of the six anti-human trafficking organizations listed on Sliver’s website that responded to The Daily Californian’s requests, only one — Bay Area Women Against Rape, or BAWAR — stated that Sliver gives the organization financial and moral support monthly.
“Yes this is true!” said program associate Marianne Vlahos in an email.
Sliver has a “close relationship” with BAWAR, according to Irion, who added that Sliver puts “most of our energy into working with them.” Acting as “moral support” for women arrested for working on the streets,” the partners have provided them information about available services, as well as “warm clothes, socks and snacks,” Irion stated. She added that they have accompanied some women to their court dates.
“It was an honor to be able to work with them and get to know some of the women,” Irion said in an email.
In 2014, the Daily Cal reported that Sliver had committed to donating 10 percent of its after-tax profits at the end of each year to nonprofits, and that it had donated about $20,000 in 2013. Irion did not comment on whether this commitment still exists.
The International Labour Organization estimated that at any given time in 2016, there were an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking. In the United States, while no official statistics exist, Polaris estimates that there are hundreds of thousands of human trafficking victims. And in the Bay Area, trafficking is particularly prevalent.
The other two anti-trafficking organizations listed on Sliver’s website, Love Never Fails and Don’t Sell Bodies, could not be reached for comment after several attempts.
Sliver currently sponsors the Living Hope Christian Center’s “Every Child Documented” program, which gives legal support to families through retaining birth certificates for children in the Philippines, Irion said in an email. She did not specify whether this sponsorship was monetary.
“We are incredibly proud to continue to be a platform for social consciousness and awareness despite the challenges we faced the last two years,” Irion said in an email, referring to the business’s recent move to South Berkeley. “We like to take advantage of our social platform and spread awareness and support around these topics that are sometimes swept under the rug.”