Did Ex-Cons Bake Your Birthday Cake?


Attending a launch party for the third annual Tasty Awards in San Francisco last Sunday, I met some local vintners and chocolatiers and sampled napoleons, clafoutis, creampuffs, cheesepuffs and cinnamon crispies that might very well have been baked by felons.

But that's a good thing.

Those pastries were supplied by the Bread Project, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that provides job training and job placement for marginalized people. Addicts, the homeless, the jobless and the formerly incarcerated learn to bake dark rye, fruit tarts, Christmas stollen, Anzac cookies and a wide variety of other sweet and savory treats in an Emeryville commercial kitchen.

For the Bread Project's nine-week café/restaurant-training program and its twelve-week bakery-training program, students are actively recruited from more than 200 local homeless shelters, halfway houses, social-service agencies, substance-abuse recovery houses, jails, and prisons -- including San Quentin. Private and corporate donors aid the seven-year-old project, whose eventual goal is self-sufficiency.

A team of professional pastry chefs create recipes for an ever-shifting array of cakes, cookies, crostini, croutons, quiches, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, hot pockets, tartlets and artisanal breads made from scratch using local produce and no artificial ingredients. These professionals then teach Bread Project students how to prepare these items -- which are then sold at enticingly low prices to the public through the nonprofit's catering branch, wholesale bakery operation, and partnerships with school districts, farmers' markets, Project Open Hand, and other agencies.

"Potential students go through a very involved intake process before they are accepted into the programs," Bread Project executive director Dagmar Schroeder-Huse told me in an interview. "During the screening interviews, our program staff discusses the history of each student as well as their barriers to employment intensively to understand the various challenges each student faces.

"Students earn a certificate of completion if they attend at least 330 out of the 360 total hours of instruction and pass most of the required written and practical tests that are given throughout the training," Schroder-Huse explained. "We strictly enforce regular attendance to mimic on-the-job expectations."

The Bread Project boasts an impressive 86 percent graduation rate, 74 percent job-placement rate, and 83 percent job-retention rate. It also operates a café -- serving baked goods and full meals -- on the Berkeley Adult School campus, which will reopen when the fall term starts next month.

Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}
@2022 - AlterNet Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. - "Poynter" fonts provided by fontsempire.com.