How One Student Donated 500,000+ Meals to Kids in Need with Her Cookbook
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College student Sahana Vij wrote her first cookbook while still in high school. Learn how every copy sold benefits No Kid Hungry.
For most high school students, the end of the school day often means running to practice or tackling homework. For Sahana Vij, the end of the school day meant heading home to work on a major project: her cookbook, Bake Away (it’s one of our top baking book picks).
On weekends and after school, Sahana created recipes inspired by her favorite destinations—from Palo Alto danishes to Phoenix avocado popsicles. But curating her favorite sweets is about more than just a love of the kitchen, it’s about doing good.
How Sahana Vij Gives Back via Baking
Amanda Friedman for Taste of Home
Every book purchased benefits No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit dedicated to ending childhood hunger in the United States. All of the royalties from this book go directly to this organization.
So what inspired Sahana? She says it’s how she was raised. “I’ve always been really involved in the community and working with the community,” she explains. “Growing up my mom and I would volunteer at a women’s and children’s shelter.” As she got older, Sahana also began volunteering time at a local elementary school.
Thinking about her baking, she explains that she wanted to “turn passion into something that gives back.” That’s why when it came time to write her book, finding a charitable partner was key. No Kid Hungry was at the top of Sahana’s list. “I wanted to work with No Kid Hungry because they work on the national and local level to help kids gain access to school meals.”
Within four months, Sahana hit her goal with sales from her book. By January 2022, she contributed 500,000 meals to the organization, and the number is still growing.
What’s Inside Bake Away
Amanda Friedman for Taste of Home
Paging through Bake Away, you’re taken on a tour of Sahana’s favorite foodie destinations. Every recipe is paired with a destination and a distinct food memory.
What makes this tour so delightful is that Sahana steers clear of the stereotypical recipes for each locale. Instead, she pulls from her own memories which are how readers come to understand her passion for crepe cake (a favorite with her cousins), why chai cake always makes her think of Seattle’s university district and exactly how churros and Neopolitan ice cream became one of her favorite sweet combinations.
Sahana’s Redmond Pear Creme Tart is one of our favorite recipes from the book, and it has a special place in her heart. It takes inspiration from her hometown of Redmond, Washington and shopping trips with her mom. “As a young kid, I was always drawn to the dessert section,” Sahana recalls. “There were always these mini fruit tarts on display in the case, and my mom would always get one for me and one for her.”
With that fond memory in mind, Sahana wanted to create her own spin on these showstopping treats—this time preparing a dessert that would be big enough to share with her whole family. The result was this stunning tart made with fresh pears layered on top of rich pastry cream.
What’s Next for Sahana Vij
Sahana is now a student at the University of California, Irvine, and she explains that “school, for me, always comes first.” She’s currently focused on literary journalism and global sustainability but has her sights set on an MBA and a baking business in the future.
Despite her busy courseload, extracurriculars and volunteering, Sahana still makes time to bake between classes. “I made my chai cake in cupcake form and thumbprint cookies filled with different types of jam,” she says. “It’s an easy way to make friends. Everyone loves desserts!”