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Bread for Hope

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

A lot of things have happened. BREAD Encounters is now an official California Non-Profit organization! Thank you! Thank you! Your congratulations and well wishes are much appreciated.

Our very first "official" project was a community bake true to the form of our mission statement of "engaging the community to bake bread for those with food insecurities". I like that term 'food insecurities'. I gleaned it from the website of Community Through Hope (CTH), a wonderful South Bay nonprofit organization who currently serves as an emergency nutritional bank to the many residents affected by the economic impact of the current COVID-19 crisis. They also happened to be our "Bread for Hope" target.

I had the opportunity to meet with CTH's delightful and energetic executive director Rosy Vazquez who not only took the time to show me around their facilities, but also let me explain to her my vision for BREAD Encounters sketched out on a giant post-it note. Since BREAD Encounters is currently a non profit in its infancy, it was super helpful to have Rosy's input. I also found out that CTH focuses on the nutritional value of the groceries distributed (from fresh produce to non-processed food items). What a great match for BREAD Encounters and for our first official community bread bake project!

Our Mission for this project was to "engage the community to bake 50 loaves of freshly baked, long fermentation, preservative free bread". The call went out to the Relief Society Sisters, members of the oldest organized women's organization in the world, to provide this bread baking service. We received a commitment from 14 individual people to bake 50 loaves. 50 bread baking kits were assembled under strict hygiene conditions by a few of the ladies and distributed. The kits included flour (white and whole wheat), salt, and a minimal amount of yeast for an overnight rise, as well as a packet of oats and gloves for sanitary handling of the bread once it came out of the oven. Oh, and it included a beautiful "Fresh Bread" paper bag worthy of the loaf it was going to hold!

Now, while CTH serves about 3000 people a week through their nutrition bank, it would appear that our goal of providing 50 freshly baked, preservative free loaves of bread would be but a drop in the bucket. But, better 50 loaves than none is the way one should look at these things. Better to make a small difference than no difference at all. (Remember the story of the Star Thrower picking up starfishes one by one on a beach filled with stranded starfish and throwing them back in to sea?) Well, we weren't dealing with starfish but bread, and we certainly weren't throwing it, but you get the idea!

The night before the community bake, a Zoom meeting was set-up to walk our would-be bakers through the tasks that lay ahead of them: dump your flour kit into a bowl, add 14 oz of water to it and stir enough to moisten (hydrate) the flour mix with a wooden spoon, and imbue with love. Very important! That last ingredient is one of the reasons why community fresh baked bread is so special. By "Sharing The Loaf", you are sharing the love! Everyone combined their ingredients while we were all online.

In preparation for the Zoom meeting I had already started a dough earlier in the day in order to show my bakers what their dough would (or should) look like the next morning and to demonstrate the next step in the process: stir down the puffy dough and plop it onto a floured board, shape it into a simple loaf and maneuver it into the prepared loaf pan(s). Unfortunately, since I had been preparing multiple doughs and sourdough pre-ferments that same day, I ended up taking the wrong bowl to the Zoom meeting and much to my dismay, my dough was a gloppy almost soupy mess! I assured my bakers that their dough would look nothing like mine!

Our plan was to collect all packaged and still warm loaves by 2 pm the next day at an outdoor collection site set up in one of our baker's side yard. Once received the packaged loaves would be adorned with a customized sticker identifying the ingredients and affixed with two washi tape hearts. During the morning I received continuous updates and pictures from our bakers on their baking process and I even met one of our sourdough bakers, a retired navy captain, at an undisclosed location in Barrio Logan for a (packaged) sourdough handoff!

The BREAD Encounters team arrived at Community Through Hope's facility just before closing time and was kindly provided with a table to set up their boxes of fresh loaves of bread for distribution the next morning.

All in all we had 15 people participate in baking 50 loaves of bread. From a couple who baked together and had to come up with an alternate plan when their oven gave out, to a mother baking with her teenage daughters, to a mom who managed the task with small kids at home. We even had a novice bread baker who took on the challenge herself (she did great!) and recruited friends and family to bake additional loaves.

These beautiful loaves, embued with love went to seniors in our neighborhood as wells as families with children who were in need. Our bakers were thrilled that they were able to make a difference in their community and happily volunteered for the next community bake "as long as it wasn't next week". We are so happy to know that BREAD Encounters was able to fulfill its mission with the help of their awesome volunteers! Our heartfelt thanks to the great women of The Paradise Hills Ward Relief Society and Ret. Navy Commander Tim McCully who provided us with a number of sourdough loaves!

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