By Lyndsie Kiebert-Carey
Ann Neal, former bakery manager at Winter Ridge Natural Foods in Sandpoint and an avid baking hobbyist at home, heard about Community Loaves from a friend in Bellingham, Wash., where she used to live.
“I looked it up and I thought, ‘this is a match for me.’ It’s volunteering. I love to bake. I don’t really want all my baked stuff sitting around the house for me to eat,” Neal said with a laugh. “It’s a way for us to support our local community.”
Community Loaves launched in the greater Seattle area in April 2020 in an effort to provide freshly baked bread to overwhelmed food banks.
Founders call it a “grassroots bread brigade,” made up of volunteer bakers who use Community Loaves’ signature honey oat sandwich loaf recipe to supply food pantries with fresh, nutritious bread. According to the organization’s website, Community Loaves has, to date, donated more than 54,000 loaves of bread to 28 food bank partners throughout Washing-ton, Oregon and Idaho.
Community Loaves also currently lays claim to 861 volunteers spread throughout 58 “hubs” — or, coordinator headquarters — in the northwest. “When I realized there were two hubs in southern Idaho but there wasn’t a hub in Sandpoint, I decided we should start a hub here,” Neal said.
Sandpoint’s Community Loaves hub officially launched in November, and currently boasts two volunteers — one being Neal. The loaves baked locally are donated to the Bonner Community Food Bank in Sandpoint.
“Our hub has donated 10 loaves of fresh, homemade honey oat bread to date,” Neal shared Dec. 21. “That trans-lates to 70 sandwiches for our local families.”
In practice, being a Commu-nity Loaves volunteer means signing up for an info session through the organization, and then committing to baking every other weekend. Be-coming a part of Community Loaves entitles volunteers to the group’s signature honey oat recipe — a bread that Neal called a “beautiful loaf,” made from locally sourced and natural ingredients.
“Now that I know all the steps in the process, it just flows so much easier than the first time I baked [for Community Loaves],” she said.
Neal said the organization also provides great resources to volunteer bakers, who are welcome to bake the bread for themselves and their families as well.
“The nice thing about the website is, once you’re registered and you’re a volunteer, you have access to these beau-tifully done videos of every stage in the process of baking the bread,” Neal said.
While it is a “commitment,” Neal said, she believes that volunteer bakers can receive a lot from the Community Loaves process as well: the opportunity to network, hone baking talents and feel good about supporting the food bank.
“Even if you’re not a baker and you want to learn, this is a wonderful opportunity to learn how to bake bread and donate it,” she said. “So, you can learn a skill at the same time. Your life can be enriched.”
Learn more about Community Loaves and sign up for an info session by visiting communityloaves.org. Those with questions can reach Sandpoint Community Loaves hub volunteer Ann Neal at annealevi@ gmail.com.
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