How an NYU student raised funds for 500,000 meals by publishing a cookbook

Sahana Vij shares how she raised funds for more than 500,000 meals for children in need with her cookbook, “Bake Away.”


Aaliya Luthra

Sahana Vij has used her recipes and passion for cooking to help feed hundreds of thousands of people in need. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Rose Clarke, Contributing Writer

When Sahana Vij, a sophomore who transferred to NYU, released a short cookbook in her senior year of high school, she didn’t expect it to raise enough money to donate over hundreds of thousands of meals. Vij donates 100% of her proceeds from the book to No Kid Hungry, a nonprofit working to end child hunger in the U.S. “Bake Away” features 20 recipes that take Vij’s love for baking and her relationship with her family and transform them to have real social impact. 

“Cooking with family is something that is very strong in my family,” Vij shared. “Each recipe is based on an experience with my family and a different city that that experience took place in.”

The first recipe in her book, for example, is Temescal Valley Citrus Poppy Seed Bread, a dish inspired by Vij’s memories of picking lemons in her grandparents’ garden. She knew she wanted to bake dishes inspired by her childhood, but it wasn’t until she found a partnership for her book that she was able to share them with the world.

Vij first heard about No Kid Hungry as a child, when she participated in a spatula-decorating contest sponsored by the organization. When writing her book, No Kid Hungry immediately came to Vij’s mind as an organization with which to partner. By January of 2022, three months after her book was published, “Bake Away” had raised funds for 500,000 meals for children in need through the charity.

Vij lived in Seattle for the majority of her life, and her love for baking started young, fostered by those around her. As an only child, Vij grew up very close to her parents and her cousins. Her parents introduced her to the world of baking through their everyday meals, which prompted Vij to create recipes of her own.

“I was super passionate about it starting around four or five,” Vij said. “My mom is kind of the reason I got into it — both of my parents are really big cooks and they spent a lot of time in the kitchen. I would watch them and observe, and I would sort of look at the recipe books but I always ended up looking closer towards the dessert sections and looking at recipes online.”

For Vij, family is the core of “Bake Away.” Inspired by her passion for baking as well as her deep love for her family, Vij was able to reach into the lives of children across the country, giving them meals when they had little else.

“‘Bake Away’ is a celebration of baking’s impact on our creativity, self-expression, and personal experiences. It’s a reflection of what’s important in our lives,” Vij writes in the book.

As a college student, Vij hasn’t had the time to bake much. Like many other students new to NYU, she’s been prioritizing getting adjusted to the city and focusing on her coursework.

“I think I’d like to bake more, which I haven’t been doing nearly in the slightest now,” Vij said. “In school, I feel like I don’t really get to explore my creativity as much. It’s a little bit difficult to not have that part of myself and part of my brain activated.”

But looking to the summer, Vij said she hopes to bake more and reconnect with her family. For fellow students who may be feeling disconnected with their creativity, she had a few words of wisdom for those looking to slow down and indulge in a home-cooked meal.

“Try new things — find a recipe you work with and get the hang of it,” Vij said. “Tweak it however you want. You don’t have to buy a ton of groceries; you don’t want to have to worry about getting new groceries for a new dinner every day. Find what works for you.”

Contact Rose Clarke at [email protected].