Most bakers will tell you there’s an almost therapeutic aspect of turning simple ingredients like flour, water and butter into something satisfying. That’s certainly true at Bridge Bread Bakery where not only are delicious goods made, but hope is restored. We follow baker Daryl Pitchford along on a typical day in the bakery, learning his remarkable story, and taking a tour of Bridge Bread’s new location where more opportunities will soon be available for even more people.
By Emily Wasserman
Bridge Bread is making the best of a difficult situation during the coronavirus pandemic. The St. Louis nonprofit will bake bread for food pantries after losing much of its business in the span of a few days.
Bridge Bread usually has four channels of revenue: a local university, to which it sends a weekly orders; a large hotel, to which it provides dinner rolls; 50 local churches; and a popular farmers’ market. In the past week, the university canceled its order indefinitely through the end of the semester; the hotel said it had no orders this week or next; more than half the churches canceled their orders; and the farmers’ market canceled for the rest of the season.
“As a business, you want to have a diversified business model, and we did,” says Bridge Bread founder Fred Domke. “We were nailed on every front.”
The organization was left without a steady source of income to pay its bakers, many of whom are in precarious financial situations. Bridge Bread employs people who were formerly homeless. One of the organization’s recent hires just got his first apartment, for instance, Domke says. Bridge Bread does not receive financial support from the government or a foundation, so there are no funds pledged to the organization on an ongoing basis.
Domke spoke to some members of the board, and they decided to collect donations to keep paying the bakers. Domke and his team then decided to use the funds to pay bakers to make sandwich bread for local food pantries. Bridge already baked for pantries, but the bakery will dramatically ramp up its efforts as demand from food pantries increases during the pandemic.
A donation of $100 translates into five hours of work for a Bridge Bread employee, and 50 loaves of bread for those visiting a food pantry.
“It’s a really crisp and clear message: Your money is doing double duty,” Domke says. “We’re attempting to keep the momentum of Bridge Bread going through these difficult times, so we can come back better and stronger and do as much good as we can as this continues.”
Domke also intends to keep Bridge Bread’s Cherokee Street storefront open for retail sales. Orders can be placed by calling 314-296-3077, and the organization will deliver.
“In the long term, it will see us through,” he says.