Hundreds turn out to support the Bakesale for Japan

On a good night Pizzaiolo may earn about $12,000 in sales for dishes with chanterelle mushrooms, Salinas Valley asparagus, and bottles of Nero D’Avola red wine. But on Saturday morning that’s how much money was raised selling cookies, cupcakes, and other baked goods at the North Oakland restaurant.

Hundreds of people turned out to support the Bakesale for Japan and eye a wide selection of sweets and treats prepared by hundreds of professional bakers and local volunteers. A long stream of customers spilled out from Pizzaiolo and flowed halfway down the Telegraph Avenue block.

Site manager for the Bakesale for Japan at Pizzaiolo, Sara Hirsch, shows a print designed by a local artist. Other prints and pieces of art were also donated to draw more funds for the event.

“It was an opportunity to show that food has the power to bring people together,” said Bay Area cook Samin Nosrat, the event’s chief organizer.

Customers continued purchasing sweets, from chocolate cupcakes to mochi and green tea cookies, into the early afternoon—with all proceeds going to Peace Winds Japan, a disaster response organization. According to its website, all money donated to PWJ is being used for, “delivery of food, water, shelter, fuel, tele-communications equipment, other emergency supplies, and relief services to survivors in areas that were hit the hardest by the disaster.”

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that struck northeastern Japan in March have left more than 10,000 dead, over 10,000 still missing, and nearly 200,000 housed in temporary shelters. The country is also struggling to get its nuclear facilities in the region secured after explosions and radioactive gas leaks occurred in three reactors.

Nosrat said they’re still counting earnings from the bake sale, which took place at 41 locations across the country—many of them in the Bay Area, including Oakland’s Pizzaiola, Gioia in Berkeley and BiRite Market in San Francisco.

Nosrat said once sales from Los Angeles partners are tabulated, she expects the total amount to break $100,000 and is hoping to reach $125,000.

The idea for a bake sale to help disaster survivors first came to Nosrat after last year’s earthquake in Haiti. Nosrat said she was upset and wanted to help, but felt she couldn’t donate an amount of money of any significance. So she decided to turn to one of the things she does best: cooking. She organized a bake sale at three Bay Area locations and raised $23,000 for survivors in Haiti.

When the quake hit Japan, Nosrat thought carefully about organizing another bake sale; she knew the amount of work that it would require. But she found herself wanting to help again, and wanting to create a space where others could contribute—a lesson she learned from her experience with the bake sale for Haiti. Many people had expressed gratitude to Nosrat for giving them a task and tangible way to help. “People don’t feel better after texting some money,” she said. They appreciate being part of a collective effort, a community effort, “a web of people coming together to make a change,” she said.

“The whole point of this was to bring people together,” Nosrat said. “To bring enough people and good will together so that it might be felt by those in Japan.”

* Scroll down for other photos from the event.

Shiba Inu butter cookies with a Yuzu glaze. Each cookie came with a Daruma card to remind people to keep those in Japan in their hearts and “to continue to send thoughts and prayers of care and healing to them.”

Customers filed past the tables inside and outside of Pizzaiolo from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. By raising $12,000, this location earned more than any other location across the country, including places in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Illinois.

Starting at 8:30 a.m. bakers, pastry chefs, and amateur cooks started unloading hundreds of cookies, cakes, and other sweet treats at Pizzaiolo.

Dana Cordeiro, one of about a dozen volunteers at Pizzaiolo on Saturday, discusses the ingredients in some locally made cookies.

Some of the items for sale included food that originally came from the quake-hit area itself, including this Pork Nikumiso from Sendai.

Volunteers Shizue Seo and her daughter Mizuki Williams (bottom left), Akiko Yoshikawa (left), and Jennifer Linderman (top left) helped teach kids to make paper cranes.

The cranes—a few hundred were made—will be sent to Students Rebuild, which got a commitment from the Bezos Family Foundation to pay $2 per crane, up to 100,000 cranes.


  1. Susie

    Nice story and photos!

Comments are closed.