Baking can be fun, but are baked goods always healthy? How can we make Sathwic (spiritually pure) sweet treats? These were some questions that were discussed by the Sai Spiritual Education (SSE) Student Council of the North-Central Region of the SSSIO-USA, as they explored various ideas for a region-wide SSE project.  The SSE Student Council consists of SSE student representatives, aged 12 to 18 years, from various Sri Sathya Sai Centers in the region, who meet every other Sunday to plan special SSE events.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, everyone was eager for an activity around sweets. And so arose the idea of holding a SAI Sweet-A-Thon - an SSE virtual bake-off to see who could create the healthiest, most presentable and most eco-friendly dessert! Some guidelines were set, such as observing hygiene, using only Sathwic ingredients, low to no use of gas appliances, and a few other criteria. In observance of the Sai mission of saving the earth, teams were encouraged to keep certain environmental facts in mind, which would be used as criteria for judging their baked entry. For instance, it is not commonly known that gas cooking appliances contribute 25 million tons of carbon pollution each year! So little to no use of gas appliances was encouraged.  The use of ingredients such as sugar was also discouraged since sugar mills contribute to large amounts of water waste.

The SSE Student Council spent the next few weeks ironing out the logistics of holding a virtual baking competition.  Each team could have a maximum of 4-5 people per team and a maximum of two teams per center so that smaller SSE groups could have a shot at winning. The sweets were judged in four categories: Most Environmentally-friendly, Most Hygienic, Most Healthy (use of Sathwic ingredients), and the Sai Super Winner! So many whimsically-named teams signed up with unique healthy recipes!

Finally, Sweet-A-Thon Day arrived! Each team was given a specific time slot to share their video and demonstrate the baking process for their delicious treats. The host, along with two Young Adult judges, kept everyone laughing in stitches and entertained for the entire two hours while the teams were busily baking. Each team had a spokesperson who explained the selection of the treats, the recipe and the baking process. They also answered a few questions from the hosts regarding how they incorporated the various criteria. The last 15 minutes of the competition was a pure adrenaline rush as the teams dashed to put their final touches, since presentation was also an important factor for the Sai Super category!

The judges had their work cut out for them! They really struggled to select the winners in each of the four categories, given all the mouth-watering desserts that were presented. Every team had done an excellent job!  The team Sai Amruth from Detroit Metro was the Sai Super winner with their beautiful blueberry muffins! The team Minneapolis Sai Confectionary with their power protein bars won the Environmental category!  Team Food4Health from Milwaukee with their delicious-looking banana nut bread won the Most Hygienic category! Team Sai Bakers from Detroit Metro with their brilliant biscotti was judged the best for use of Sathwic ingredients!  In the end, our SAI Sweet-A-Thon demonstrated how to share Sai love through food, friendliness and laughter which all nourish body, mind and spirit.