Bridge Bread is a social business enterprise in St. Louis, Missouri, that provides supportive employment to help people without permanent housing get their lives back on track. AB Mauri North America’s association with the organization goes back more than five years. The company supports the Bridge Bread mission in various ways including ingredient technology support, equipment and financial donations as well as having its president serve on the organization’s board.
Bridge Bread provides “Hope in the Baking.” Recently, that hope was put at risk with the quick onset of the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns across the St. Louis region in March. Bridge Bread typically has five channels of revenue: a local university to which it sends weekly orders; a prominent hotel to which it provides almost 50,000 dinner rolls annually for banquets and other functions; more than 50 local churches; a popular urban farmers market, and Bridge Bread’s own café in South St. Louis.
In the span of a few days, the university canceled its order indefinitely through the end of the semester, the hotel said it had no orders for the immediate future, churches suspended orders due to social distancing measures, the farmers market canceled its schedule for the rest of the season and the café was forced to close due to a citywide lockdown.
”“As a business, you want to have a diversified model, and we did,” said Bridge Bread founder Fred Domke. "But we were nailed on every front.”
Net, the organization was left without a steady source of income to pay its bakers, many of whom are in precarious financial situations themselves, as Bridge Bread employs people who are formerly homeless. For instance, one of the organization’s recent hires just moved into his first apartment. Since Bridge Bread does not receive financial support from the government or a foundation, there are no funds pledged to the organization on an ongoing basis.
The governing board of Bridge Bread, made up of Domke and local business and community leaders, now faced a potential collapse in its revenue and made the decision to collect donations to keep paying the bakers. With an initial target of raising $20,000, equivalent to a couple of months of running costs at the bakery, AB Mauri North America got the campaign rolling by offering to match the first $5,000 of donations.
The donated funds pay the bakers and allow them to focus their time and craft to making sandwich bread for local food pantries facing higher demand than normal. Additionally, Bridge Bread recently launched a service that brings its baked goods to customers through contactless delivery.
A donation of only $100 translates into five hours of work for a Bridge Bread employee and 50 precious loaves of bread for those visiting a food pantry.
“It’s a really crisp and clear message: your money is doing double duty,” Domke said.
In just a few short weeks, Bridge Bread, with the help of generous donors, has exceeded its target and its bakers are feeling blessed. Not only are they as busy as ever but now it’s their turn to lend a helping hand to others.