It goes without saying that one of the most important functions in life is eating. If you don’t eat, you die, and while that may be the worst case scenario, undereating is an issue as well. Even being underfed can cause your cognitive and physical functions to decline, making daily life harder than it has to be.
Since the pandemic began in March 2020, food has been a bit of an issue for people. Whether it is the danger of going to the store, the store not having food in stock, or even being unable to afford food due to job loss, there are many obstacles in the way to properly feeding yourself in these trying times.
You’ve heard the term “breaking bread” with someone, as in sharing a meal, but did you ever think about taking the term literally? That’s exactly what this inspirational story is all about. The good natured act of sharing bread, but we’re not just talking about a single loaf. We’re talking lots of bread!
We have all heard stories about people struggling during the pandemic. Crowdfunding campaigns have sprouted up, relief funds are being given by the government, and people are trying to find any way they can to get ahead of their bills. Along with that trend, people have taken to cooking at home since restaurants have been generally closed. An especially popular form of cooking has been baking!
Katherine Kehrli is one of these home bakers who started Community Loaves, an organization to donate bread to local food banks. She is a former college administrator who now leads a team of 500 bakers in Seattle who hope to fill the bellies of their hungry neighbors. It started small, using her home as the base of operations, but now Community Loaves sends out over 1,300 loaves of bread!
According to Kehrli, “bread’s been around for a long time. It’s four simple ingredients: flour, water, salt, yeast. But it’s been around for thousands of years, and each time someone discovers it for the first time, it’s like magic.” The simplicity is what allows the team at Community Loaves to bake so many loaves while not being an unsustainable operation.
The team at Community Loaves bakes a honey oat loaf bread using a simple formula that the team developed. Their connection to the community also comes in the form of using local flour. The recipe can make four loaves, so as payment, Kehrli tells her volunteers to take one loaf of bread for themselves and donate the other three. Community Loaves works with Hopelink, one of the food banks in high demand since the pandemic began.
Matthew Campbell is the associate director of food programs at Hopelink. He describes how much his patrons have been enjoying the program. "When I think of my childhood, my baba, my grandma used to make the best homemade bread. That reminds me of this. You can see smiles through masks. You still can. You can see the eyes go up. (With) 600, 700 loaves of bread now, that's 600, 700 smiles."
Not only has the program helped those in need of food, it has also had unintended effects on the bakers themselves. One home baker named Sarah Gannholm says that her and her father have bonded over the experience. "I haven't been able to see my dad for several months, so I got this idea that I would get my dad to buy a KitchenAid (mixer) and buy some bread pans. He's not a baker. He's never made anything but chocolate chip cookies in his oven, or a turkey. It just seemed like a natural thing for us to get on Zoom and do this together, and all of a sudden he's giving back to (the) community in a way that he's never done in his life." This community truly knows the meaning of breaking bread.