6 Great Organizations Using Bread To Make A Difference

One of the most ancient food items around, bread has long been a staple of diverse cultures throughout the world. Because it requires only basic, abundantly available ingredients, the doughy food can be made and enjoyed by just about anyone, making it an ideal item for uniting communities. In no particular order, here are some organizations using bread, baking, and nutrition for social good.

Coming in at #1 is the Bread Houses Network. Comprised of numerous centers focused on community-building, creativity, and entrepreneurship, this Bulgarian organization aims to drive social change through bread-making programs. Its locations, which encompass both community centers and bakeries, are meant to foster intercultural dialogue and cooperation among people from diverse walks of life, with all participants kneading together around the same table.

Central to the group's work are its Bread Therapy programs, tactile experiences designed for those with a variety of special needs. There are also regular, community-based, collective baking events, plus after-school educational programs that feature hands-on activities like working with dough and making bread puppets. For companies and organizations, a team-building option helps to nurture better workplace relationships. Other initiatives are specifically tailored for child hospital patients, refugees, and other underserved groups.

For #2 we find Soup & Bread. It's a free weekly community meal based at the Hideout, a bar and music venue in Chicago. Each week, it rounds up a handful of chefs, caterers, musicians, writers, artists, and home cooks to donate pots of soup, which are served to all guests along with fresh bread. The project is designed to be an easy, low-key way to get folks out of the house and socializing in the dead of a dark Chicago winter.

While its meal is free, Soup & Bread also solicits pay-what-you-can donations that are given to a wide range of neighborhood food pantries and hunger relief agencies. In 2011, the group released its "Soup & Bread Cookbook," a compilation of its own recipes paired with stories of how groups around the country use soup to bring people together and reach out to others.

Showing up at #3 is Community Grains. This Oakland-based company partners with local farmers, millers, bakers, and chefs to restore the local grain economy in California. Through these connections, it seeks to bring back the essential nutrients and robust flavors lost to industrial milling, creating a healthier and more sustainable production cycle in the process.

The company is committed to 100% whole grains, milled intact and unsifted. Its bread is parbaked, which means it's partially baked and then rapidly frozen so customers can make it at home and enjoy it fresh from the oven. Other offerings include pastas, which are made from small-scale harvests, and flours that contain the entire wheat kernel, including the endosperm, bran, and germ. The company also sells polenta, as well as boxed bundles of its items and other local provisions.

For #4 we have Scotland The Bread, a collaborative project to establish a Scottish flour and bread supply that is healthy, equitable, locally controlled, and sustainable. A member-owned community benefit society, its work includes growing, milling, and selling flour; campaigning for a better, more biodiverse grain supply; and researching and improving the nutrient profile of grain.

Scotland The Bread's organic heritage grain is grown on the Balcaskie Estate in Fife, milled in small batches and sold wholesale and retail. Based on scientific testing, the group claims that its flours are, on average, more nutrient-dense than most commercial alternatives. In 2015, Scotland The Bread launched its Soil to Slice program, which encourages communities to get involved in growing, harvesting, threshing, milling, and baking with more nutritious grains in their local areas.

Landing at #5 is Hot Bread Kitchen. It was founded by Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, who wanted to create an immigrant baking collective where women with diverse histories would come together to sharpen their skills and secure meaningful careers in New York City's male-dominated food industry. Emphasizing economic equity and culinary innovation, the organization works to help women, immigrants, and people of color thrive as workers and entrepreneurs within the food system.

To carry out its mission, Hot Bread Kitchen offers a workforce development program and a small business incubator. The former involves an intensive training, followed by a guaranteed job placement with one of the group's employer partners. The latter initiative, meanwhile, gives small business owners access to a fully licensed commercial kitchen at an affordable rate, and also offers support through professional connections, mentorship and coaching, networking events, and more.

Finally, for #6 we get Bread for the City, which helps low-income Washington, DC residents develop their power to determine the future of their own communities. The organization provides food, clothing, medical care, and legal and social services to reduce the burden of poverty, and seeks justice through community organizing and public advocacy.

Each month, Bread for the City's two food pantries provide nutritious groceries, including fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats, to more than 8,400 clients living near the federal poverty line. Elsewhere, two monthly farmers' markets offer fresh produce to the community at large. The group also maintains rooftop gardens and a three-acre orchard, where its Sustainable Agriculture division both grows food and educates the community.