After a cross-country move from Los Angeles to rural New Hampshire at the height of the pandemic, Leo Barnes found himself with a lot of extra time on his hands. He also found himself missing quality bagels. Barnes, a sophomore at Hanover High School in Hanover, New Hampshire at the time, took it upon himself to master making them from scratch.
The first batch he made was on Mother’s Day in 2020. But the recipe needed tweaking. After considerable research and experimentation, his bagels became more consistent in both shape and flavor. “Batch after batch overwhelmed my family, so I started sharing them with friends, neighbors and my local food shelter, the Upper Valley Haven,” said Barnes.
By his junior year he had perfected his bagel recipe. He also began taking a class that inspired him to enter a Dartmouth Entrepreneurship competition using his latest creations. Wanting to have a bigger impact on addressing food insecurity, he began to think of ways to motivate others to bake and provide for those in need. Barnes’ business idea won the competition earning him a $1,000 prize that would allow him to launch Charity Bagels.
Through Charity Bagels – whose slogan is “donation made delicious” – Barnes began selling make-it-yourself bagel kits. Each kit includes pre-measured artisanal ingredients, video instructions and all the tools you need to make a dozen baked goods from scratch. “My baking kits aren’t about selling, they’re about giving,” explained Barnes. His “bake one, give one” model encourages bakers to gift half their dozen bagels to local charities or community heroes.
“You pick the cause, you pick the kit and I handle the fundraiser grunt work,” he said. “There is nothing as fulfilling as making good food for others. The more baking and breaking bread we do, the better.”
Charity Bagels has achieved great success in a short time and has been a big hit in elementary, middle and high schools. Since starting Charity Bagels, Barnes has sold over 500 bagel kits and helped raise over $1,100 at Hanover High School and over $1,000 at Richmond Middle School. The kits not only get students involved but also help to fundraise for causes that matter.
In addition to winning the Dartmouth Entrepreneurship competition, Barnes was runner-up for the Home Baking Association’s Educator’s Award and won the Gloria Barron Prize for Young Heroes, a national award that celebrates inspiring, public-spirited young people from across the United States and Canada.
“Helping people enjoy the experience of baking something new and delicious while getting more involved in their communities is my favorite part of running this business,” he said.
Barnes is determined to promote social good by unveiling new products and continuing to help organizations raise money for important causes. He plans to release everything bagel kits, pretzel kits and cinnamon roll kits soon. In the meantime, you’ll find his make-it-yourself kits on his website, available for shipping nationwide.
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