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The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan last week has now climbed to nearly 7,000. More than 10,000 are missing, and hundreds of thousands of others are staying in shelters. Can you help the country by eating?

Professional and amateur bakers in the U.S. are banding together to put on a nationwide bake sale on April 2 to raise money for the relief organization Peace Winds Japan. Organizers of the event say they raised $23,000 last year with a similar bake sale for Haiti disaster relief. Meanwhile, restaurants everywhere are holding charity dinners, donating proceeds to assist Japan.

There's no doubt these fundraising efforts are well-intentioned. But is the idea of dining on a sumptuous meal or indulging in baked goods in poor taste, given the context?

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New York chef Sara Jenkins examined the "dark side of benefit dinners" in an article in The Atlantic in October, noting she always found the idea of gorging to help the hungry "weird."

Moreover, she said, with some dubious causes, it's not always clear what percentage of the money raised actually goes to the cause. Although she said she fully endorses certain charity events, she wrote:

"Some of the so-called 'benefits' I have participated in seem to be more about throwing giant, self-congratulatory parties. It seems like every time some terrible event happens, everyone gets busy setting up a benefit for the victims and at the same time making sure they get more press themselves. Before you know it, rather than talking about the awful situation in Haiti or Pakistan we are talking about what delicacies such and such restaurant is serving."

What do you think? If your money is going to assist a massive disaster, does it matter if you're indulging while giving?





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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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