By Stuart Mann
John Stephenson Jr. and Bob Harford have been working hard over the summer to get Take This Bread, the new bakery started by All Saints, Sherbourne Street in downtown Toronto, up and running.
Each Friday, the two have been baking loaves of bread and selling them, at reduced prices, to the tenants of the nearby Dan Harrison Community Complex. They’ve also been inviting the tenants to join them.
They’re hoping to have the bakery running three days a week by early September, selling bread, cookies and communion wafers and providing training and job skills to 12 unemployed people.
“There’s been lots of interest from the tenants at Dan Harrison,” says Mr. Stephenson, the manager of the drop-in at the housing complex. “It’s wonderful to hear them say, ‘I want to be part of this.’”
The goal is to provide unemployed people with training in the bakery for 12 months, and then to transition some of them into paying jobs. Each person who completes the year-long training will receive a food handlers’ certificate, qualifying them to work in a professional kitchen.
In addition to working in the bakery, the participants will also meet with a social worker once a month to develop goals for employment and learn financial skills.
Mr. Stephenson is inviting churches to send small groups to the bakery to bake with the staff for a day. “We want people to not just buy the bread but to interact with what we’re doing. We’re hoping that churches will come on a Friday and bake with the program participants, and then take the baked goods back to their church for use on Sunday.”
He says the bakery already makes a delicious communion wafer. “It tastes better because it has got a lot of shortening in it,” he says with a laugh.
He says it’s important that customers get to know the people who are doing the baking. “To take part in the process of baking with people who are marginalized—that’s key for people to buy into the project. The learning is much deeper then.”
Volunteers are also needed to help out on a regular basis. The bakery is located in the Toronto Friendship Centre, just two doors down from the church at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne streets.
The bakery plans to sell its goods to individuals, local restaurants and churches. One of the aims of the project is to produce quality food that is accessible to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. Therefore, the unemployed and working poor will be able to buy the products at a lower price.
Mr. Stephenson says getting the bakery going has been hard but satisfying work. “It’s been a challenge but also a lot of fun. We had a good day about two weeks ago when we were baking communion bread and sitting around eating cookies and drinking coffee and I thought, ‘This is a community of Christ right here.’ That was a special moment.”
Churches that are interested in visiting the bakery and purchasing its products, or volunteers who want to help out, are asked to contact Mr. Stephenson by phone at 416-368-7768. The bakery also plans to launch a website in September, www.takethisbread.ca, to sell its goods.
Anglicans can learn more about Take This Bread and ways to support it at the diocese’s Outreach Networking Conference on Oct. 20 at Holy Trinity School, Richmond Hill, where Mr. Stephenson will lead a workshop.
Take This Bread received support from the Diocese’s Reach Grants program. The next deadline for Reach Grants applications is Sept. 21. Learn more on the Grants for Mission page.