The concept of serving others isn’t foreign for these two – whether it’s on the receiving end or being part of a family in public service. When the pandemic settled in, LA-based cinematographers and friends of over a decade, Jeanne Tyson and Quyen Tran, whose positions and industry were indefinitely put on hold, decided to repurpose their energy and hobby of baking into serving their community.
With the support of their friends and family and their social media networks reaching from Minnesota to Canada to England, the two created a variety of baked goods from artisanal sourdough loaves of bread, cookies and brownies with 100% of the proceeds going to the Food Bank to help provide over 100,000 meals (and counting).
Jeanne of @doughrectorsofphotography stopped by the Food Bank to deliver fresh, baked goods to essential Food Bank staff on September 9.
Inspired by Jeanne’s first solo bake sale to benefit the Food Bank, which raised $650 in one week, they decided it would be a good idea to combine forces with hopes of raising even more money, and meals for their community and thus @doughrectorsofphotography was born. Proclaimed hobbyists, the directors of photography – no strangers to collaborating – wanted to use their baking hobby for the greater good until they can make it back to set.
The duo saw an opportunity with Jeanne and Quyen’s daughter’s upcoming shared birthday and after Jeanne’s bake sale. “We thought it would be a nice way to honor both birthdays in this strange time,” Jeanne said.
Jeanne didn’t feel appropriate letting loose for her birthday. For her it was more about connecting with friends and family, and still wanting to do that somehow during this pandemic. Meanwhile, Quyen has conversations with her kids about the pandemic and the social unrest, and her daughter is always asking how they can help others. Naturally, their next collaboration was unfolding before their very eyes.
When explaining to her children about food insecurity, Quyen’s daughter, like most children, doesn’t understand the sometimes grim reality. Her daughter, wanting to help, asked, “Can we cook for people who don’t have food?” to which Quyen said, “absolutely.” “We’ve gotten flour donations, baking pans, ingredients, and people are still donating to the LA FOOD BANK even if they aren’t local and can’t have our baked goods,” said Quyen. “The beauty of this organization is that people know where their money is going. Every dollar is four meals. When people can quantify their contribution, it feels good.”
“[Since] we keep it centered around food, our hope is that the folks who donate can share our baked goods with family members, which will raise awareness about the food crisis. These people may have children who can also learn about the origin of their cookies, and hopefully spark more conversation.”
“I was hoping to show my friends, family and community that one person can make an impact. Finding a way to give back can be difficult [initially], but once you figure it out, it’s easy. We’ve had people say, “You’ve inspired me. I don’t live locally, so I can’t buy the baked goods. Here’s $25 for your cause, and I’m starting a bake sale for one of my local charities!” That’s what I wanted: this trickle effect where people make it bigger than themselves, taking whatever their skill is, and offering it to be of service.” said Jeanne.
“I think people want to help, and they just need to know how, so we wanted to inspire people to be proactive at the grassroots level. Even if it’s only three or four people, that’s a beautiful start.” Quyen added.
So far, the two have been able to raise enough money for over 100,000 meals and counting.
“There’s a part [of baking] that serves needs as a creator, where you start with nothing and end up with something tangible – it’s like science and magic in a lot of ways,” said Jeanne. “There’s something magical about that – getting to take the thing I have created and share it with others. It goes beyond the nutrients of the food.”
“As we drove into the stadium at the Carson distribution, we passed hundreds of cars lined up to receive food. Jeanne and I both had to pull over, and we had tears in our eyes. It was overwhelming and gave us an urgency to do more,” Quyen shares. “I’ve known about the LA Regional Food Bank – I have friends who volunteer, but to see with our own eyes the magnitude of the work – there are no words, and we’re honored to help.”
The daughter of refugees, and having her family come over during the Vietnam War, Quyen is no stranger to food insecurity. “Our family grew up very poor – I know what it’s like to stand in line for help, and I am so grateful for the generosity of others shown to my family,” Quyen said.
“What brings us together is food, and in my culture and in many cultures, everything is about food and comfort and sharing a meal and breaking bread. It’s a communal way to come together. Our bake sale centers around food, and by having 100% proceeds going towards feeding others, it’s providing a chance to have a meal that we’ve made together [during our socially-distant reality], and it’s so poetic in being able to do that,” Quyen said.
“We’ve also been having this conversation about social unrest and the protests and wanting to participate safely because of the pandemic. With Q’s young children and my boyfriend’s son – [we were wondering], how can we get them to participate?” Jeanne shares.
Originally from Alabama, Jeanne grew up with parents who were public servants from the local public school system to the district attorney’s office.
Growing up on the Gulf Coast, Jeanne’s community often got impacted by hurricanes where families frequently have to recover almost every year with hurricanes, and her parents have always been on the frontline in times of crisis. Now that they’re in their late 60s and taking care of Jeanne’s grandpa in his 90s, they can’t physically be on the frontline, and as a family, they’ve been brainstorming how they can still serve the community during this time.
“In facing the pandemic and the protests, it can be hard to see the positive sides, to feel good about humankind. Getting to do this [bake sale], and seeing how much people care and how much people want to support their communities and beyond [has been] heartwarming to see,” Jeanne said.
“People don’t understand how great the need is. Something we witnessed at the drive-through [at the Carson emergency food distribution] is that it doesn’t matter if you have a brand new car or not – there’s a new need with this pandemic, and it doesn’t matter who you are. Food is essential, and we have to make sure that everyone has access to it,” Jeanne said.
“There was no judgment [at the drive-through distribution] which was so uplifting. The Food Bank is here to serve anyone that comes in, no questions asked. We take it for granted every day, wondering what we are having for dinner, while others don’t even know when their next meal will be. My hope is that this bake sale will raise awareness for where peoples’ food comes from, and hopefully what they can then do to help others if they can.” Quyen said.
“I’m really proud, but I feel it’s not enough. It will never be enough, we’re already talking about when the next bake sale is and what can we do to sponsor events. We’re planning Zoom sessions – where our doughnators can join us live where we answer questions to the best of our knowledge about products that we supplied,” Quyen said.
“It’s amazing, and I’m incredibly proud to serve the community in some capacity. There’s a thing inside both of us where we want to do more – looking to have an even bigger impact – [this all has] inspired us to do more. It’s now part of our lives, and I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be active in my community in a time when it feels really hard to do anything,” Jeanne shares.