War protesters turn to bake sales, supper clubs and restaurant reviews to support Ukraine

Ukrainian chef and food writer Olia Hercules, Russian cookbook author Dr Alissa Timoskina, and Polish “storyteller cook” Zuza Zak have launched Cook for Ukraine, a fundraiser to support the Nations Fund United for Children (UNICEF), shortly after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia on February 24.

Participants are encouraged to cook and bake items for sale – especially, in many cases, Ukrainian and Eastern European-inspired dishes – and donate the proceeds. On the collective’s fundraising page, a mission statement reads: “#CookForUkraine aims to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis facing the world at this time, as well as to raise the funds needed to helping children and families in Ukraine who have been displaced by the current situation.”

The statement adds that hundreds of people from around the world – including home cooks, restaurateurs and top chefs – have joined the initiative. Together, they’re turning their love of food into a global movement.

RELATED: Soaring Wheat Prices and Shortages: How Ukraine’s Invasion Is Affecting Global Food Supply

Along with hosting bake sales and supper clubs, attendees prepared suggested recipes — including Ukrainian challah, solyanka, layered cabbage pie and green borscht — just to share on social media. and publicizing the campaign, which raised nearly $140,000.

It’s not the only food effort that has sprung up in support of Ukraine in recent weeks, which seems fitting for the country known as the “breadbasket of the world.” Ukraine, after all, is one of the largest grain producers in the world.

Washington-based chef Paola Velez also launched #BakeforUkraine, an offshoot of her popular #BakersAgainstRacism fundraisers that began in 2020.

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Bakers Against Racism started with a small pop-up called Doña Dona, which sold Latin American-inspired donuts. The proceeds benefited undocumented workers in the nation’s capital amid the pandemic. After the murder of George Floyd, Chief Willa Pelini contacted Velez to organize a similar pop-up whose proceeds will benefit Black Lives Matter.

Velez realized, however, that they would need to do something bigger.

“Using the resources she learned during Doña Dona, Velez typed up a mission statement and several detailed documents on how to cook at scale and raise funds, tapped chef Rob Rubba as creative mind behind the graphics and as a co-founder of the movement,” reads the Bakers for Racism homepage. “She created a website, a hashtag and an Instagram.”

Home cooks and professional bakers across the country took action — and in their kitchens — and Bakers Against Racism unofficially became the world’s largest bake sale, raising more than $2.5 million for social justice causes.

Today, the Bakers Against Racism community has stepped up once again. Their hashtag has been used over 1,000 times on Instagram, flooding social media with gorgeous images of blue and yellow cakes, sunflower-shaped cookies and traditional desserts like Ukrainian apple cakes and raspberry pies.

Supporters of Ukraine have also used the internet in a different way, briefly exploiting food reviews as a way to spread accurate information about the conflict in the country. As Mashable reported, on February 28, Twitter user @Konrad03249040 tweeted: “Get involved: find a random shop/cafe/restaurant in Russia in a major city on Google Maps and write in the review what what is really happening in Ukraine. Thanks for spreading the idea.”

The Twitter user tagged an account belonging to the “hacktivist” group Anonymous, which retweeted the post to its nearly 300,000 followers. The idea started to gain traction, especially after it was shared with the r/Ukraine subreddit. Soon, posts urging Russian readers to seek out accurate information about the armed conflict began to appear on restaurant review sites, such as Google Reviews and Yelp.

A translated review that was share on Twitter read: “The food was great! Unfortunately, Putin spoiled our appetites by invading Ukraine. Stand up to your dictator, stop killing innocent people! Your government is lying to you. Get up! google “Kyiv” and putter [sic] and share it with all the people of Russia.”

Mashable released a story update on March 2 after a Google spokesperson shared the following statement: “Due to a recent increase in contributed content on Google Maps related to the war in Ukraine, We have additional safeguards in place to monitor and prevent content that violates our policies for Maps, including temporarily blocking new reviews, photos and videos in the region.”

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