Women’s bakery teams up with dry storage for a pop-up event


The Women’s Bakery (TWB), a Denver-based nonprofit that aims to create access to gainful employment for East African women through bread making, and Chef Kelly Whitaker’s Dry Storage are teaming up for a pop-up bake sale from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 7 at 3601 Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder. Following the sale, which will feature a bread recipe often used by TWB employees, association founder Markey Culver and Whitaker will talk about social enterprise. All proceeds from the event will go directly to TWB.

The event aims to highlight the collaboration between TWB and Dry Storage, an artisanal mill that seeks to connect consumers to their grains and to all the farmers, bakers, brewers, chefs and distillers who nurture the product throughout its journey from ground to plate. The hope is to put TWB “in touch with key players in the grain industry here in Colorado, essentially creating a new bond,” says Leigh Barnholt, who manages marketing, events and community outreach for Id Est Hospitality, the Whitaker restaurant group, which includes Wolf’s Tailor, Bruto and Basta.

TWB’s involvement with women in East Africa began years ago, when Culver was stationed in Bushoga, Rwanda, as a Peace Corps volunteer from 2010 to 2012. She had been there with intended to improve people’s lives and stumbled upon bread as a means of change.

In Rwanda, many people only eat one meal a day, Culver explained at a TED talk in 2017, and while living there, she limited her meal intake in solidarity. After about a year, however, she realized the extent of her hunger and sought additional food. She started making salads with local produce, then found a recipe for five-ingredient bread in a Peace Corps manual and instructions for baking it in a Dutch oven over an open fire.

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The Women’s Bakery is a social enterprise aimed at creating access to gainful employment for women in East Africa through the baking of bread.

Speed ​​up communications

Once she managed to bake a bread, a number of women were eager to learn how to bake the bread themselves and to share the product with their children. Within two months, some also started selling slices of bread at the local market.

Culver started TWB in 2014 with the goal of expanding the potential that she and the women of Bushoga had discovered together.

Today, TWB has three sites in Rwanda: Kigali, Gicumbi and Ruyenzi. A total of fifty women and eight men are employed by the organization. They follow a more elaborate recipe than the one Culver first discovered, but they always try to keep the ingredients simple.

“We worked with food scientists to help us develop these recipes,” says Uma Trivede, TWB Development and Communications Associate. Breads often contain milk and eggs and sometimes use bananas, carrots, beets, or peanut flour. The goal is for each loaf to contain seven grams of protein; ingredients vary depending on availability. “We want to make sure our bread is nutritious,” continues Trivede. TWB has never tried to emulate a traditional bakery, and it does not serve croissants or other delicacies found in American stores.

In addition to the nutritional benefits of bread, TWB focuses on the ripple effect that educational and economic opportunities can have on employed women, their families and communities. “For many women at TWB, their income increases six to eight times while employed,” the organization writes on its website.

In Kigali’s flagship bakery, for example, some employees have “gone from a simple checking account to a savings account,” explains Trivede. Instead of just buying land, they build buildings. Instead of just covering children’s school expenses, they invest in livestock.

Additionally, TWB offers courses in topics such as financial literacy and professional development. The organization provides team meals, has an on-site child care center, and offers a combination of public and private health insurance.

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“For many TWB women, their income increases six to eight times while employed,” TWB writes on its website.

Speed ​​up communications

Next on the agenda is a new bakery and cafe in Buttaro, in the northern region of Rwanda, in collaboration with the University of Global Health Equity (an initiative of Partners in Health). It “will serve as a café space for students, staff and faculty at the university,” says Trivede. “It will also expand our reach by serving communities in the area through Project One Bread, our school feeding program,” which serves approximately 3,100 schoolchildren per day.

The November 7 event at Dry Storage will cover TWB’s accomplishments and plans for the future, including partnerships with Id Est Hospitality and Dry Storage. While a lot of effort goes into “hyper-focusing on our local community, the goal is ultimately global impact,” Barnhold says. TWB believes this connection will help the organization learn more about how the bakery industry sources its raw materials. Even before supply chain shortages were exacerbated by the pandemic, it was difficult to source bulk flour in Rwanda as there is only one major supplier.

TWB hopes to “be more connected and exposed to the baking industry and the milling community that we have in Colorado,” Trivede said. “We see that food insecurity and the role of women in the workplace are shared internationally.

The organization may wish to learn more about the grinding of its own flour. But for now, he continues to build self-sufficiency, one slice of bread at a time.

To learn more about The Women’s Bakery, visit thewomensbakery.com.

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