More volunteers are needed to help bake bread for a good cause.
In addition, a volunteer coordinator is being sought for North and Central Whidbey.
When the pandemic started last year, Seattle Culinary Academy administrator and passionate baker Katherine Kehrli created Community Loaves, a grassroots organization that makes and donates bread to food banks.
Kehrli saw that the need for food became especially pronounced during the pandemic, when more and more people began experiencing food insecurity. Local efforts for Community Loaves have spread throughout Washington and neighboring states, such as Oregon and Idaho.
On South Whidbey, a hub for Community Loaves was started this year and is led by volunteer coordinator and Clinton resident Sue Mills.
Mills first heard about the baking organization from her sister on Mercer Island. She contacted Kehrli and Good Cheer Food Bank, and a South Whidbey hub for Community Loaves was born.
The demand for the nutritious, honey-oat sandwich bread has soared at Good Cheer, and more volunteers are needed to help make the bread.
Volunteers follow a recipe developed by Kehrli. Most ingredients — such as oats and honey — can be purchased just about anywhere. The flours used, however, come from Skagit County and are high in whole grains.
As the volunteer coordinator, Mills receives the packaging materials and all supplies ordered from the Community Loaves website and distributes them to volunteers. Donations are made to Good Cheer every two weeks. On donation day, bakers just have to drop their finished loaves off on Mills’ doorstep, and she takes care of the rest.
“Their customers are really very excited about the bread,” Mills said of the food bank. “They ask for it now.”
Good Cheer has received a total of 462 loaves from volunteer bakers, as of this week. Since a honey-oat loaf yields 14 slices, that’s enough bread to make 3,234 sandwiches.
Although the South Whidbey hub has 15 volunteers, donations have tapered off during the busy summer months. But with fall approaching, both Kehrli and Mills are hoping this will inspire more production and more volunteers.
“One of the things we need on Whidbey is a second hub,” Kehrli said in an email. “Whidbey is not so small and it would be more convenient for bakers if we had a second location to offer for bread drop-off.”
She suggested Coupeville as a good location for a second hub on Whidbey. Hub coordinators are not required to do any of the baking themselves — unless they want to — and Kehrli pointed out that it’s not too time-consuming and a great way to get to know your neighbors.
Mills said the recipe is not difficult to follow. For new volunteers, there are informational sessions and video tutorials that show how to make the bread.
“I practically have it in my head now,” Mills said of the recipe. “You just create a routine for yourself on how you do it.”
But it can be a long process. From start to finish, it takes her about eight hours.
“It takes a good portion of a day,” she said. “You don’t just throw things into a bowl and knead it and let it rise and bake it.”
She makes four loaves at a time, often freezing them until donation day. She has found it to be a grounding activity.
“If there’s a lot of junk going on in my life, I make bread,” she said. “I think that’s what a lot of the breadmakers think too.”
Lynn Wenzel, another volunteer for the South Whidbey hub, said she was surprised by how tasty the bread loaf recipe from Community Loaves is.
“I’m just delighted that the organization exists,” she said. “It’s important, what we’re doing.”
For volunteers looking to join the South Whidbey Community Loaves hub, email Mills at email@example.com. If someone is interested in being a volunteer coordinator for a North Whidbey or Central Whidbey hub, email Kehrli at Katherine@communityloaves.org.