Cooking Up Community

A pair of University of Chicago Laboratory Schools seventh graders are using their love of cooking to help shine a light on the Hyde Park Refugee Project.

Saanika Dutta and Orlie Weitzman cofounded Cooking up Community, a lunchtime school club that raised $410 selling home-made donuts, cupcakes, cookies and muffins to hungry middle- and high schoolers. The funds will help HPRP purchase supplies for its annual summer camp program.

“We had a number of different meetings trying to do something connecting food with philanthropy,” says Dutta. “There was a core of about 12 people helping to make dessert for the sale and decorations, do outreach, create a webpage and other things.”

“I had already had some experience with the Hyde Park Refugee Project and I knew that they were looking for money to fund their summer program,” says Weitzman, “so I thought that it would be a good idea to involve lab school students by having a bake sale and possibly a cookbook as a fundraiser for them to buy supplies for their summer program.”

The pair received great support from Humanities Middle School teacher Jasmine Jefferson.

I am proud to have sponsored such a lovely group of students under the leadership of Orlie and Saanika,” says Jefferson. “The two student leaders were always graciously accepting of others’ suggestions and forward thinkers. It was my pleasure to serve alongside of them.”

The baked sale was also a big hit with teachers.

“We found there was a lot of demand for baked goods in the teacher’s lounge because people really like them and they know it’s supporting a good cause,” says Dutta.

In addition to preparing for the bake sale, the club participated in a lot of team building.

“We had Cahoots (a game similar to jeopardy) and fun stuff like activities and coloring,” said Weitzman. “We also did a survey about family history and food, so people could share a grandparent’s special recipe and a special thing about that.”

Next year, the club plans to expand its offerings with a cookbook that contains recipes and artwork supplied by club members.

“The refugee crisis is something that’s ongoing and a current issue. Kids our age are being forced to flee their homes,” says Weitzman. “There’s something very special about kids helping other kids and everyone has a connection with food.”

Main image: Cooking for Community members present Hyde Park Refugee Project members a check for $410. (Left to right: Lily Davidson, Juliana Daughtery, Jasmine Jefferson (Teacher and Club Sponsor), Saanika Dutta, Dorothy Pytel (HPRP founder), Kathleen Ray (HPRP co-founder), Orlie Weitzman, Liv Rodriguez, Opal Martin, and Talya Bartom.  Other club members not pictured: Lia AlemSeged, Leila Koss, Lena Jonas, Iris Strahilevitz, Bella Fuller, Hannah Gao and Amara Mattison.

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