Will Bake For Food: The Ravenna connection to next week’s event for Northwest Harvest

By my count, about half of the neighbors I follow on twitter are also into food. WAY into food: The eating of GOOD food, certainly, but also the blogging of it — describing the ingredients, preparing them, detailing the flavors…and the PICTURES! Don’t get me started on how great the pictures of all this food looks.

Ravenna resident Jenny Richards has been blogging about food on her website, Purple House Dirt, since 2007.  She and fellow food blogger Jenny Miller (Rainy Day Gal*) are co-hosting an event for Northwest Harvest next Saturday, for which over 60 food bloggers have donated their time and tasty talents.

I talked with Jenny Richards about how the event works, and the role that social media (specifically, twitter) had in bringing the event to life.

Ravenna Blog:  How did the idea to gather local bakers to trade their creations for food bank donations come about?

Jenny Richards: Jenny Miller (Rainy Day Gal) had the idea that we could swap baked goods for donations to Northwest Harvest. Food is what we do, and it’s how we take care of people, and we had a feeling that others would feel the same way.

In April 2010, Keren Brown (Frantic Foodie) organized Seattle’s response to the National Food Blogger Bake Sale (which benefited Share our Strength), and the turnout was terrific. This time of year, we’re all baking like mad anyway, and we knew that if we caught the wave at the right time, we’d be able to host a single event that everyone could contribute. We knew that together the community could make a much bigger impact than smaller splinter events.

On November 21st, when we have the final counts of how much we baked and how much we collected, we’ll know if it was a success for Northwest Harvest. For us, it’s already a success.

Will Bake For Food sign, designed by CakeSpy (www.cakespy.com)

RB: Now, how does Will Bake For Food work? I show up with canned goods donations and/or money to donate, and then what happens?

JR:  We’re really encouraging folks to bring non-perishable items, and we’ll swap those items for tickets. You can then enter the bake sale and buy whatever you want with those tickets. There will be a higher value assigned to items Northwest Harvest is in critical need of – diapers, formula, gluten-free foods – which gives you more tickets to spend on goodies.

The bakers are ‘pricing’ their goods in tickets, so that you might pick up a cookie with a ticket or a pie with a few more.
We’ll also be taking monetary donations, and we’ll hand out tickets for those as well.

[For a list of food that Northwest Harvest could use the most, click here.]

RB: Social media (specifically twitter) had a hand in getting you guys your coffee and cider donations for the event. (I had just started following you when I saw it happen.) Can you tell us about it?

JR: Twitter really did change the game for this event. Jenny [Miller] and I had our first conversation about ‘a possible food drive in the fall’ the last week of September, but we didn’t actually meet about it until October 19th. A week later, we’d done our groundwork – found locations and contacted Northwest Harvest, and then started to contact folks via Twitter. One night we sent about 60 messages in Twitter to food bloggers we knew, just trying to gauge their interest. At that point, we weren’t sure if we would have enough to really pull this off, so that was our litmus test. By midnight that same evening, we had nearly 40 confirmed bakers. Responses came fast and furious, and because those folks are used to talking in 140 character snippets, the speed at which the event came together was frightening, actually. The website and e-mails started a few days later, and we’re hitting a few hundred messages (e-mail and Twitter) a day from participants.

By doing this publicly, we actually got some offers to help that we hadn’t expected – and that’s where coffee, cider, and a raffle came in. We asked online about coffee service – neither Jenny nor I could see ourselves making drinks that day with this much already going on – and that’s where Brett and Curtis from @drippr came in. They’ve done coffee benefits for the American Heart Association and offered to do the service, as well as ask for coffee donations from local shops. It was an enormous weight off our shoulders.

And one of the folks I contacted early was Lisa Kennelly, who works with Whole Foods. She contacted me because Whole Foods was willing to donate Skagit Valley cider to the event. That’s some terrific stuff, I use it when I bake and brew every fall, and we couldn’t have been happier. Brett stepped in to coordinate that with Lisa directly, and suddenly we have hot drinks, all because we had our conversations online.

And finally, the raffle idea started because Lisa Nakamura of Allium on Orcas donated a gift certificate because she couldn’t bake for the event or be present. At first we were unsure of what we would do with it, but thought about a small raffle – just in case other businesses wanted to donate in that way. Since then, we’ve gotten donations from Red Mill, Sur La Table, and we’re crossing our fingers about a response from Tom Douglas. All had heard about the event by following someone on Twitter.

On the day of the sale, folks can put in 3 tickets to enter the raffle, and they don’t even have to be present to win.


Will Bake For Food takes place next Saturday, November 20th, from 10am-2pm.  Bring some donations for Northwest Harvest and your hungry self to University Congregational Church’s Ostrander Hall (4515 16th Ave NE) if you’d like to participate.

To see a selection of the over 60 food bloggers who are donating to the event, click here.

Four the official press release for Will Bake For Food, click here.


*Jenny Miller’s site has the BEST INDEX PAGE for a food blog that I have ever seen. I SWEAR she’s got a smell-o-vision plugin for WordPress.