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Hot Bread Kitchen
Foreign-born and low-income workers have the opportunity to become financially independent through a culinary career at Hot Bread Kitchen (HBK) in New York City’s Spanish Harlem.

Due to a lack of English fluency or professional networks, immigrants are often forced to the periphery of society. HBK works to build a world where immigrants are accepted into mainstream culture and honored for their work. In the kitchen, the foreign-born workers are not only improving their English language skills, but learning about commercial baking and management.

Since its launch, HBK has trained 22 women from 11 different countries, and it has incubated 15 small businesses.

The bakery offers Project Launch, a paid on-the-job training program, and HBK Incubates, a small business incubation program. Most of the workers grew up learning how to bake traditional breads from family recipes, and the training programs are funded by the sale of multi-ethnic breads made by the bakers using local and organic ingredients.

Project Launch is an intensive workforce training program in artisanal baking and English fluency for foreign-born and low-income minority women. Participants in the program receive up to 35 hours per week of on-the-job bakery training, 16 hours of customer service training and three hours of English fluency classes.

After an average of nine months, the women are placed in management track positions in the culinary industry or advanced to the HBK Incubates, which helps them launch their own businesses. For those transitioning into professional positions, household wealth is improved, with salaries increasing an average of 106%.

Nancy Mendez started making tortillas by hand when she was 10 years old, but she could not afford professional cooking school in Mexico because of the cost. She now makes Mexican corn tortillas for HBK based on her grandmother’s recipe. Mendez, who moved to the U.S. almost 14 years ago, now runs the entire tortilla production process at HBK. The tortillas are sold at weekly farmer’s markets in New York and at small shops. The breads sold at HBK vary, from foccacia to rye and challah to lavash crackers; the bakery also sells granola. The tortillas are one of the bakery’s most popular items.

HBK is not the only non-profit kitchen that doubles as a training center — La Cocina in San Francisco and Hope & Main in Rhode Island are also kitchen training centers in addition to commercial enterprises. However, HBK is unique in that is pays its bakers for class time.
HBK products are sold at retailers all over Manhattan, Brooklyn and online.

– Haley Sklut

Sources: Hot Bread Kitchen, National Public Radio, Changemakers
Photo: Arbor Brothers

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As Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) grows, wouldn’t it be great if consumers could have clear indicators of which companies and products were part of this beneficial social movement? There is – B Corp Certification.  A concept introduced five years ago, B Corp is “like the Fair Trade label but for a whole company, not just a bag of coffee,” said co-founder Jay Coen Gilbert.

The organization certifies companies once they have met standards of social and environmental performance and have changed their bylaws to take into account the impact of their decisions on the environment, community, and employees. “Increasingly there are businesses that want to create value for all their stakeholders, not just their shareholders,” said Andrew Kassoy, another of B Corp’s founders. “These companies are competing not just to be best in the world, but best for the world.”

About 650 companies have embraced the status so far, including Patagonia, Etsy, and most recently Ben & Jerry’s, one of the original socially driven companies (now owned by Unilever). Mr. Kassoy called the Ben & Jerry’s news a “big deal,” and hoped Unilever’s decision to pursue B Corp certification would “influence other multinationals” to do the same.

David Griswold, the founder of Sustainable Harvest, a Portland-based coffee importer, knew from the beginning that he wanted to start a project to help others. But he also saw challenges to the success of starting a non-profit – not being able to “reach scale.” They needed significant investment from the beginning to accomplish their mission, and they needed money to grow. “It was only when my company grew, and I began to reinvest my earnings in coffee communities abroad, that I saw I could really make a difference.” He said he felt that a for-profit business would work best for his goals.

B Corp certification helps with giving “legitimacy” to for-profit businesses that want to prove their moral sincerity, especially when trying to partner with non-profit foundations to increase their community development.  It also helps explain to investors why they operate as they do to secure more capital, and allows consumers to make educated buying choices.

Devin Hibbard, a B Corp supporter and owner of Beads For Life – a non-profit that operates “very much” like a business, says, in the end “it’s all about poverty eradication” through commerce.

– Mary Purcell

Source: The New York Times
Video: You Tube