OAKLAND, Calif. - It began as a stress relieving outlet and a way for a group of students from Oakland Technical High School to connect with one another during the pandemic. It then evolved into something more than the teens themselves ever knew that they could accomplish.
It was boredom and their love of bread making that resulted in what came to be known as the group, the Bored Bread Heads, with an Instagram account where members shared photos of their doughy creations.
The story of the Bored Bread Heads was picked up by KTVU and captured the attention of the Rotary Club of San Francisco’s Connor Krone. Krone is the director of the club’s Action Leadership Program for Students (ALPS). The program partners with youth groups and non-profit organizations to connect young people with leadership projects.
Krone saw what the teens were doing as an excellent opportunity for youth action and community involvement. So he contacted members of the Bored Bread Heads. "I proposed the teens find a way to lead a community project that turns bread baking from something that de-stresses to an activity that benefits the local community,” Krone told KTVU. The idea would be to donate the bread they made to help those who were struggling with food security.
At first, the teens felt uneasy about the daunting idea, especially during a time when health and safety concerns were paramount.
“I think in the beginning they were a little bit confused on how they would make the connection. There was a lot of apprehension about taking on the project right now,” Krone said, adding, “Young people don’t have many opportunities to make big changes in the real world. While we knew they could make a difference, it took convincing to help them believe in themselves.”
With the Rotary Club's support and guidance from Krone, the young bakers agreed to move forward. "We partnered up with Gram Gould, a baker at The Bread Project, to learn about food safety. From there, the teens picked recipes and started to get excited about baking the bread,” Krone said.
The next step, Krone would find was more of a challenge than he’d expected. Finding an organization that would accept homemade bread would be difficult. Because of heightened food safety concerns amid the pandemic, many organizations, though facing an even greater need to feed the community, were not able to take the donations. All eight food banks the Rotary Club reached out to were forced to decline the donation offer due to their health and safety protocols.
But Krone would not be deterred. “One evening I was watching KTVU and heard about the pop-up food bank at Eight Bridges Brewery,” Krone explained, adding, "The owner, Justin, was excited to accept our bread donation! We were also able to donate to the Dorthay Day House in Berkeley."
The Rotary coordinated the project and purchased all of the material the teens would need to bake their bread. On May 6, students picked up the ingredients at Oakland Technical High (with socially distancing rules in place) and then for the next two days, the kids baked and baked.
In all, the team of young bakers produced 100 loaves. On May 8, they dropped off the bread during another (socially distanced) meet-up outside Oakland Tech to hand off their edible creations. Then the Rotary Club delivered the donations to Eight Bridges Brewery's pop-up food-bank as well as the Dorthay Day House shelter.
Students from Oakland Technical High School baked and donated 100 loaves of bread to local food bank and shelter.
20 high school students were involved in the project. And beyond taking action to make a difference in their community, Krone noted that there was something more that came out of their work: a feeling of empowerment.
He said that the teens started out as just a group of kids with an Instagram, making bread together to pass the time. But they came out of it with a first-hand knowledge that they can make a difference. "One of the wonderful things was to see that they could do it,” Krone said. “By the end they were jazzed to do something meaningful in the real world to help.”
So inspired by the experience, many said they wanted to continue to give back to their community.
Krone added that since they’ve figured out a model to make this collaborative effort work, the Rotary Club is open to doing it again and include new groups of young people to take on the challenge of this leadership project.