Guest Interview: Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale
February 27, 2013
Today, I have something a little different. I did an e-mail interview with Gary Loewenthal, the Founder and Director of the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale. It is a great movement/organization, and when I heard they were looking for blogs to interview for, I jumped at the chance! Below are my deeply probing questions and Gary’s responses–as well as some helpful links in case you want to get involved!
1. Can you give readers a little background information on the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale? When and how did it start?
In late 2008, shortly after Compassion for Animals
got started, we met and were talking about what we could do. Someone said “How about a vegan bake sale?” I loved the idea. We could merge vegan outreach with this fun and well-known part of Americana.
Since I’d never been part of a bake sale, I searched online for tips. At some point I came across the Great American Bake Sale, which is a loose network of bake sales under the sponsorship of two sugar companies, and the proceeds go to fighting hunger. For whatever reason, while staring out the window five minutes later, I thought, “What about the Great American Vegan Bake Sale?” It actually seemed possible, especially if we let the bake sale organizers decide what to do with their proceeds. As I mulled over the idea, it seemed we should include Canada and Mexico, also, and call it the Great North American Vegan Bake Sale. I talked it over with another member of the group, and by the end of the phone call, it was the Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale.
I created a bare-bones website and Googled the web for groups that I thought would be most likely to participate. Shortly after sending out the first batch of invitations, I got signups from Canada and New Zealand. It had just started, and already it was international. I hoped for a dozen bake sales the first year; we had over 80, and VegNews magazine awarded it “Veg Event of the Year.”
2. Why bake sales as opposed to other forms of fundraising?
Bake sales have several appealing features for fundraising. They’re fun, creative, and community-oriented. They pair well with brochures and other forms of outreach. They create a friendly atmosphere which makes it possible to have fruitful discussions about topics that in other environments might cause heated discussions. We’ve found also that it attracts people who don’t usually volunteer.
A vegan bake sale is a great way (not the only one, of course) to do vegan outreach. It lets people know that they can still have mouth-watering desserts and muffins and so forth if they’re vegan. It naturally brings up questions about eggs and dairy. It’s a good vehicle to let people browse and/or buy vegan cookbooks.
3. Is their a special reason why 20-28 April is the “mega-week”? Is there some special significance to those dates?
While there’s no perfect timeframe (every date has a conflict, we’ve learned), the end of April is not too hot, not too cold in most of the world, and it’s during school so campus groups can participate –but it’s not too close to finals. The date range changes slightly each year so we can encompass two weekends. We’re not real strict, though. If you want to participate but cannot do so during the “official” timeframe, whenever you can make it is fine. Each year, about 90 percent of the bake sales are in the official week-plus, and the other 10 percent are outside it.
4. How many groups participated last year? What is the goal for this year?
About 130 groups and 160 bake sales. I say “about” because we had some cases like a group holding a bake sale one day and a subset of the group holding a bake sale the next weekend. Each year the number has climbed up.
5. What has been the most unusual or surprising group or location that participated?
First let me say that every vegan bake sale, of any size, is awesome. Participants have included a city council member’s office, a classroom, two brothers on the front porch, and a vegan bar. There have been three online bake sales that were part of the WVBS. It’s always exciting when we get a new country. The first three years, we didn’t have any participating bake sales in Germany. Then last year we got a signup from there, and then another, and so on, until there were twelve participating vegan bake sales in Germany. This year, so far, France and Wales are new countries.
6. On a personal note, what is your favorite baked good?
I’m going to have to go with chocolate cookies. But I like variety better than any one item.
7. Where can people go for more information?
The website is www.veganbakesale.org
. Not only does it explain the basics of the WVBS and have a signup form and current schedule of participating bake sales, it also has a ton of tips on bake sales and vegan baking, an intro to veganism, highlights from past years, web banners, and more. The Facebook page is veganbakesale and the twitter page is wwveganbakesale.
Thanks for reading, and happy baking!