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Jacob Kaufman
The Muffin Man
February 17, 2015
We designed GFJ with flexible boundaries in the hopes that we could adapt ourselves to unique and interesting food-related opportunities that we couldn't have preconceived. It's as if we were waiting for Jacob's story all along. And although the stars did not align for us to publish his interview in time to spread the word about this year's National Muffin Day, Jacob still reminds us that it is never too late to do something to help another person.

What inspired you to start your current project?

For about a year and a half now, I've been baking muffins on Sunday nights and handing them out to the hungry on my Monday walk to work.  I got part of the idea from my uncle, who convinced me that baking muffins wasn't difficult (prior to that, I had never done any baking beyond cookies from a cookie dough roll).  The other part came from seeing how the homeless people in San Francisco were being dehumanized every day.

My friend Julia Levy convinced me to take the muffin thing one step further for National Muffin Day, and that's how the campaign was born.

National Muffin Day occurs every year on January 26th, in between National Peanut Butter Day and National Blueberry Pancake Day.  This was the first time that I organized a campaign around it.  We had people take pictures of muffins they baked for the homeless and post them on our Facebook page or put them on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #givemuffins.  We used a spreadsheet to keep track.  In total we had 72 people participate-I'd say that's a success!  There's nothing planned for next year yet, but mark January 26th in your calendars.

How did your previous work or life experience prepare you to execute your project?

It didn't.  I'm a lawyer, and before that I was an English teacher in Japan.

I usually take the same route from my apartment to my work, down Market Street-a major San Francisco thoroughfare. Recipients of the muffins are usually pretty happy (I mean, free homemade muffins-who wouldn't be happy?) and I do have a few regulars who get excited when they see me.

What it comes down to is that seeing homeless people every day makes me want to do something, anything, that I can do to help.

What was the greatest obstacle you had to overcome in pursuing National Muffin Day?

I've always hated "networking" and have historically been pretty shy asking people I don't know for help, but I overcame that to some extent and was able to make some great connections with local bakeries and other people in the community.  The secret is to have friends who are good at networking do it for you.

What can you identify as the greatest opportunities in food right now?

I would say baking for philanthropic purposes, but I might be biased. In the course of planning for National Muffin Day I made some connections with other non-profits related to helping the homeless (e.g., Hayes Valley Bakeworks and Project Homeless Connect) and I hope to get involved more with them.  For now I have no specific ideas-but I guess Pie Day in March could be a start (although admittedly I've never baked a pie before).

If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?

You think I'm going to say "baked goods," but the truth is that I don't eat sugar (so yes, I can't try my own muffins). I'd say back massages. Oh man, I could really go for one of those right now.


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