MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — The saying goes, man does not live by bread alone.
But, combined with community and generosity, it's a recipe for a better way of life.
"I'm surprised nobody's thought of it before," said Wes Gardner, the lead baker at Baker's Field Flour and Bread, one of three Minnesota bakeries that make Neighbor Loaves.
It's not a type of bread, per say. It's a program from Artisan Grain Collaborative that's connecting farms, processors, bakers and eaters.
Each neighbor loaf that a bakery produces is made with at least 50% local grain and each of those loaves goes to a local food shelf.
The idea came to AGC's executive director Alyssa Hartman at the start of the pandemic.
"I saw how there were groceries that had less bread on the shelves, sometimes none, and I knew that that meant food pantries were also experiencing bread shortages," recalled Hartman.
She started gathering ingredients to secure the value chain and get the loaves in production.
"[We] have a process for grain to continue to move off of our area farms through mills and into bakeries and restaurants," said Hartman.
Once Artisan Grain Collaborative had the supplies and bakeries on board, the community gave the program the pièce de résistance.
"A number of the bakeries that are in the program have let me know that some of their regular customers, over the months since March, have since gotten accustomed to every week, when they place their online order for a loaf of bread, also ordering a neighbor loaf," explained Hartman.
And it's caught on, with tens of thousands of Neighbor Loaves distributed across the Midwest.
"When it first started, we were making about 120 loaves a week and we've been continuing that pretty consistently," recalled Gardner.
They're all made by hand and with love.
"A lot of people are struggling these days and you know, it's a simple gesture just to give them a loaf of bread, but it's what we can do," said Gardner.
Neighbor Loaves can be purchased from the following participating Minnesota bakeries:
Baker’s Field Flour & Bread – Minneapolis, MN
Doughp Creations – Granite Falls, MN
River Rock Kitchen & Baking Co. – St. Peter, MN