Bakers Across the Country Are Using Their Breads and Pastries to Give Back to Their Communities—Here’s How

Before the pandemic, food photographer Aliza Sokolow went on multiple trips a year with the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief organization that does social impact work in developing countries. When the pandemic hit, not only were the trips put on hold, but the Los Angeles-based photographer lost all of her work; still, Sokolow remained committed to doing something that would have a positive impact on her community. “Once it felt safe to go out a bit in April, I started baking challah and selling it to a few people and donating 50 percent of the proceeds to charities I wanted to give back to just to give myself something to do,” Sokolow said. “It took off and has allowed me to give back for the last ten months. It’s a privilege to give people a prize for helping me give back.”

Amidst the darkness of the last ten months, a number of bakers have used bread and other baked goods to fight racism, feed frontline workers, and confront many of the other systemic challenges we are facing. In the process, they’re making their little corners of the world brighter, bringing joy at a time when so many of us needed it the most.

When he was furloughed from New York City restaurant Aska, Tyler Lee Steinbrenner converted his apartment into a small bakery. He began baking loaves for Honey’s x Cafe Forsaken meal drops for frontline workers and Woodbine, an experimental community hub which started a food pantry in the early spring of 2020. “This whole project began as an initiative for mutual-aid in NYC,” said Steinbrenner, who taught himself wild-leavening techniques while working and living in Thailand in 2017. His ACQ Milk Bread, a flour and rice porridge folded into an organic milk, butter, and egg yolk mixture, quickly became popular with New Yorkers.