Why is the New York Women's Foundation Investing in Bread Making?

The New York Women's Foundation pulls lots of different levers to advance its mission of achieving economic security and justice for women and girls. One effort that recently caught our attention is the foundation’s partnership with the Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK), a Spanish Harlem-based bread company that aims to boost the economic prospects of immigrant and low-income women and men.

Founded by Jessamyn W. Rodriguez, HBK is part of a growing trend of non-profit kitchens which double as training centers and commercial businesses. To date, the organization has trained more than 30 women from more than 12 different countries in baking and English fluency. And in addition to being lauded by the Clinton Global Initiative and UNDP as a scalable model for programs worldwide, HBK is an example of the types of outifts the NYWF, like a lot of other funders these days, wants to support.  

The foundation has said about Rodriguez that she "has used her dual passions for baking and social justice to found Hot Bread Kitchen and to lead its growth from a visionary idea to a thriving bakery and workforce development program.”

The workforce piece here is key, given how keen many funders are to equip low-income people with better skills at a time when lots of skilled positions are going unfilled and employers often complain they can't find the workers they need. 

So how does the program work? Well, for starters, in order to work at HBK, individuals must be foreign-born and low-income and want to become financially solvent through a baking career. And while there, they have to be open taking what they know and blending it with language lessons and commercial baking and management to shape their futures.

Program offerings include paid baking and professional skills training along with English fluency classes. HBK also serves as a small business incubator that provides commercial kitchen rental and enterprise support through workshops and individual coaching.

Cool stuff. And, oh right, I almost forgot: HBK also make delicious breads that can be found around New York City and beyond, not to mention tortillas, crackers, and granola. Yum!