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Actor Jacob Tischler Bakes Up Support for Social Justice

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Starter founder Jacob Tischler - COURTESY OF JACOB TISCHLER
  • Courtesy Of Jacob Tischler
  • Starter founder Jacob Tischler

Want to eat well while doing good? A "social justice bakery" called Starter delivers or ships out baked goods to those who donate to a selected organization. Right now, $25 to the Peace & Justice Center of Vermont will get you one sourdough loaf. A $100 donation earns three loaves, with options such as orange rosemary and gluten-free breads, plus cookies and crackers.

So far, Starter has raised more than $7,000 for social justice organizations, according to founder and baker Jacob Tischler, 29. An actor, he left New York City and returned to his parents' St. George home in mid-March when the pandemic closed Broadway theaters.

At first, Tischler channeled his creative energies into lighthearted videos about his forced exodus and career hiatus. But he put those on pause in late May as the racial justice movement gathered momentum. "It would have been insensitive to keep going," he said.

"I was up here in Vermont being very depressed and feeling very removed from the cultural hot spot of NYC," Tischler continued. A friend suggested he use his baking skills to support social change.

The actor began baking about four years ago while playing the lead in Saturday Night Fever at Westchester Broadway Theatre as a way to thank the cast for their support. His experience with sourdough starter goes back to November 2019, before the lockdown shortage of packaged yeast made this wild version wildly popular. "I was rather peeved when it became a pandemic thing," he joked.

His own Starter has taken off, too. The effort has raised funds for five nonprofits, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont, the King Street Center in Burlington and the Okra Project, which supports Black trans people around the country. Tischler estimates he has baked more than 100 loaves, as well as cookies and crackers. "It feels so good to be actually doing something," he said.

Tischler has been baking in his parents' kitchen, but he dreams of building a backyard brick oven. He recently took a weekend masonry oven-building course at Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield with stonemason Thea Alvin, whom he hoped to hire to build him an oven of his own.

Those plans are on hold right now as Tischler navigates the next turn in his life. Ten days ago, he received the unexpected news that he had been accepted to the University of Southern California's screenwriting MFA program, which starts online on August 17.

"I thought I was going to be opening a bakery, and now I'm going to grad school," he said.

While he gets a handle on his school requirements, Tischler has enlisted the help of two local bakers, Devon O'Brien and Erin McGuire, to keep Starter going. In addition, between the two of them, they bring gluten-free and vegan baking expertise, Tischler said happily. "We want to make this initiative accessible to all."

Learn more and donate at startervt.org.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Raising Dough"