Bake Back America

Olivia Levine ‘18 Brings Cooking and Charity to Parker


Photo by Ava Ori

Back Back America volunteer from Girl Scout troop 1281 bakes cookies from West Lakeland, New York.

Director of Communications Nick Saracino forwarded an email from Olivia Levine ‘18 with the subject “Volunteer Opportunity for Parker Alumni” on Tuesday, May 5. In the email, Levine describes Bake Back America and her work with the charity organization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bake Back America was created in Scarsdale, N.Y. by Brianna Subin and her mother Melissa Subin. According to the Bake Back America’s website, the organization was initially created as a platform to bake goods for first responders and those affected by the pandemic. The charity has since expanded to a program that funds random acts of kindness. 

Levine first heard about Bake Back America after a friend of hers—the niece of Melissa Subin—reached out in early March about an up-and-coming charity aimed at helping essential workers in the time of the coronavirus. It dawned on Levine in late April that her baking skills could be put to philanthropic use. 

“To a lot of people, first responders only include doctors and hospitals,” Levine said, “but postal workers are still working, and there are people that are working at the homeless shelters. We wanted to make sure that our baked goods and any acts of kindness were reaching all places.”     

Since its inception in early March, Bake Back America has expanded far beyond its birthplace in Scarsdale. At the time of publication, the organization has facilitated acts of kindness in 24 states aimed at recognizing firefighters, hospital workers, police officers, and other essential workers. In Chicago, donations were gifted to local fire departments and community shelters. 

Through its website, one can choose one of three options to donate, the first is a donation of money to the organization’s GoFundMe account. Option two includes a lunch delivery, handled by Bake Back America, to a specified recipient for every $25 donated. 

Option three is the most elaborate. Volunteers choose their own recipient and then bake and deliver their food by following safety guidelines detailed in an email sent by Bake Back America. Then the volunteer shares a photo of them baking in their personal protective equipment, which Bake Back America shares on their social media page. 

“It was not something out of the ordinary for me, which is why I felt it was something really easy I could do,” freshman Annabelle Garelick said about her experience, facilitated by Bake Back America, of delivering cookies to a local post office. “The organization is really good and it’s a super easy process to bake and submit pictures and stuff.”

On Bake Back America’s website and social media, Garelick can be seen, adorned in a blue surgical mask and black oven mitts, holding a tray of chocolate chip cookies in her kitchen. While baking the batch, Garelick remained in her personal protective equipment to avoid any risk of contamination. 

Behind the scenes, other students are working to help grow the organization so more acts of kindness can be spearheaded. “Basically, I just did it because I just think this is a really great thing,” said Kendall Michaels, the volunteer graphic designer for Bake Back America’s social media. “I think this is a great organization and I would love to use my knowledge and what I know from social media marketing and just help them build up their organization.”

Michaels was recommended to Melissa Subin by Levine and has spent much of her time home from college working in conjunction with Melissa Subin to craft posts for the charity’s Instagram and Facebook pages. 

“It takes time just because when you’re growing something like this—a nonprofit—you want everything that you post to be meaningful,” Michaels said. “And if you’re just kind of waiting until the last minute, it’s not going to be meaningful and people aren’t gonna want to take action.” 

Although both Michaels and Levine have other work plans for the summer, both recognize the importance of acknowledging essential workers during the pandemic. “COVID is going to be with us for a very long time, and so is this organization,” Levine said. “As long as there are people working out there and doing essential work, we have to thank them for it. Even if it’s not baking—if it’s giving out masks to people or having events at homeless shelters for Mother’s Day—the organization will definitely continue.”