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Where Pastry Meets Policy: Vegan Bake Sales Raise Thousands for Immigrants’ Rights

Where Pastry Meets Policy: Vegan Bake Sales Raise Thousands for Immigrants’ Rights

Where Pastry Meets Policy: Vegan Bake Sales Raise Thousands for Immigrants’ Right

It’s the perfect blend of pastry and policy, philanthropy and audacity: I am talking, of course, about the phenomenon of vegan bake sales to benefit immigrants and asylum-seekers springing up around the country. There may be one coming to a community near you. If there isn’t, I’ve got some simple suggestions for you. But first, a little background: I am the co-founder of and Chicago VeganMania. As someone who has been an activist for years and has put on many bake sales as fundraisers after natural disasters, I know how quickly they can come together and how they can raise a decent chunk of change in a short time, while also serving to give people in the community a great feeling of contributing to something positive in the world, especially when so many of us feel very hopeless with the stories in the news.

Righteous Vegan Activists
Righteous Vegan Activists (including Marla, the author, in her Impeach 45 shirt)

When I was contacted by my friend Ashley about hosting a vegan bake sale for immigrant support at her family’s popular bar, pinball and video game hotspot Logan Arcade in Chicago, I jumped at the chance. We picked a date, chose organizations that would receive all the processed (RAICES in Texas and PASO in our home state of IL), and we were off. Once I set up an event page on Facebook and announced it, I immediately started getting contacted by local restaurants and professional bakers – and well as many non-professionals – who wanted to donate to our bake sale, which was July 1, the day after the national rally Families Belong Together. We had 14 professionals donate to us – three of whom have personal ties to the immigration issue through their Mexican heritage – and many volunteer bakers. We raised $3,125 in three hours.

Just a heaping plate of Vegan Cannoli!
Just a heaping plate of Vegan Cannoli!

Just as quickly, I was contacted by movers-and-shakers like Katelin and Joseph Rupp of Indy VegFest, Nico V. of VOAA, Leila Sleiman of Pittsburgh VegFest, Iris Nguyen and Sara Andrews, Jessica Schoech of Vegan Street Fair, Carlos Giardina and Carmella Lanni-Giardina of V Marks the Shop and Amber Gilewski and Maija Cantori in their respective cities, which has been the most thrilling thing. I am also in communication with others who want to organize similar vegan bake sales but they haven’t been announced yet.

At this point, we’ve had ten vegan bake sales for immigrants’ rights in communities across the country: fundraisers in Chicago, Indianapolis, Denver, Madison and Pittsburgh have happened so far, and five in Southern California happened yesterdayPhilly and Ithaca will be happening next weekend, and we have many more still to be announced. So far, we have raised about $16,000.00, with every penny going to RAICES or RAICES plus a state organization for their work on behalf of providing advocacy, legal counsel and protection, reunification and legislation for immigrant children, families and asylum-seekers. This figure is not including donations sent in by people who couldn’t attend bake sales.

From the Denver bake sale!
From the Denver bake sale!

As vegans, we are often accused of not caring for people but this interest in vegan bake sales for this human-centered cause has taken on a life of its own, something I am not seeing replicated in communities of faith. We are vegan because we don’t believe it’s okay to inflict cruelties on other sensitive individuals or separate babies from their mothers. It only makes sense that we would stand up for immigrants’ rights as well.

Iris Nguyen of Madison, a prolific artist whose Envision Positive shop creates sustainable crafts inspired by veganism, nature and compassionate living, said, “My father and brother were refugees and I was separated from them for many years during my childhood. The harm caused by such separation is something no family of any nationality, ethnicity or species should have to endure and when I see it happen, it reminds me of how I felt when my own family was separated.”

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As people who are standing up for male calves separated from their mothers by the dairy industry and piglets separated from their mothers by the meat industry, why wouldn’t we step up for our species as well?

If you are interested in hosting a vegan bake sale for immigrants’ rights, please contact me at I would love to help! If this doesn’t work for you, please consider donating directly to RAICES or another state organization that is working on behalf of immigrants and asylum-seekers.


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