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MARCH 28, 2021

Reflections on One Year of Neighbor Loaves
Webinar: The Generosity of Bread  |  Fresh Roberson on Mutual Aid 
Highlights: Neighbor Loaves in the News


It's been a year!

This week, we bring you a special edition of The Crumb commemorating the one year anniversary of Neighbor Loaves, the program our community and friends around the country have grown from a lightbulb moment to a robust reality. More than 50 bakers in the Midwest and beyond have participated, and many continue to bake Neighbor Loaves today. At current tally, nearly 30,000 loaves have been donated, representing more than $200,000 circulating in local food systems. That means thousands of individuals purchased loaves from their local baker made with at least 50% stone-milled regional flour that were then baked and donated to area food pantries, mutual aid groups, and other community feeding organizations, to make their way to people hit hard by the pandemic.

This work has been a bright spot in my life during a very uncertain year, and I hope you’ll feel similarly buoyed reading these reflections. Please enjoy this celebration in stories from the farmers, millers, bakers, and hunger relief organizations that made the initiative possible and successful.

—Alyssa Hartman, AGC Executive Director


Neighbor Loaves began as a flurry of calls, texts, and emails with AGC staff and members, popcorning various ideas that might support the regional grain chain as the pandemic took hold, and working through the how-to's of implementation once a firm concept coalesced. The last weekend of March 2020, the first batches of Neighbor Loaves were offered by Madison Sourdough and ORIGIN Breads in Madison, WI.

As more bakeries throughout the Midwest joined and orders rolled in during April, Neighbor Loaves became much of AGC's work for that month: finding food pantries, connecting them with bakers, furiously asking questions we hadn’t previously imagined asking. Do you have a bread slicer? Do you need someone to pick up the loaves or can you drop them off? Do you have plastic bags on hand for packaging? Do you already source regional grains? Having a practical project when the world was so raw felt grounding and productive.

On an April 15 virtual call for regional grain value chain leaders organized by Cascadia Grains, we offered up our model and digital tools. From that conversation, a number of our friends in grain across the country decided to run with the initiative, including the Northeast Grainshed Alliance (who contributed a program logo, shown at right), Common Grain Alliance in the Mid Atlantic, Appalachian Staple Foods Collaborative, and CRAFT at Chatham University in Pennsylvania. This work also spun off other concepts, including the very successful Community Loaves initiative in the Pacific Northwest, which connects regional flour and home bakers with food pantries, and a malt-based iteration at Deer Creek Malthouse in Pennsylvania. 

Read on to hear directly from the Midwest farmers, millers, bakers, organizers, and hunger relief organizations along our Neighbor Loaves value chain in their words what Neighbor Loaves has meant to them.

Luke Peterson, farmer, A-Frame Farm, Madison, MN
Luke likes how Neighbor Loaves highlights the entire grain chain, and connects farm country to communities.

“Projects like Neighbor Loaves and partners like Baker’s Field Flour & Bread allow me to farm the way I do. Without our local partners, I may not be able to grow some of the small grains my rotations need.”

At AGC, we've found that this is a truth shared by many organic and regenerative farmers, and a barrier to more farmers adopting organic practices and diversified rotations. Growing crops in sequence serves soil health, and yet, markets don’t always align with this diversity. Farms are pressured to grow what will sell, so it’s important for businesses to understand the limits farmers face, and work with them to support farm viability. Success depends on diverse markets.  

Jill Brockman-Cummings, miller, Janie's Mill, Ashkum, IL

“We have often said that bread is more than good. It is alive and brings life. It is a comfort in uncertain times and it was a privilege to partner with AGC.” 

As reported in this recent Civil Eats op-ed, the Janie’s team was extremely busy milling to make up for lapses in global supply chains throughout the pandemic, and they continue to be. Janie’s donated flour directly to area food pantries, in addition to milling for Neighbor Loaves, and was a critical partner in making this initiative possible.

Wes Gardner, miller, baker & manager, Baker's Field Flour & Bread, Minneapolis, MN
At its peak, Neighbor Loaves really made a difference to Baker’s Field Flour & Bread. The Minneapolis bakery mills its own flour, and entered March last year doing 80% baking & 20% milling. Those percentages flipped as pandemic closures reconfigured shopping patterns. Being able to bake 120 fully-paid loaves a week for donation buffered finances tremendously. Now, they’re making about 40 loaves a month for The Food Group, a food bank that distributes to other feeding organizations in the region. But Wes describes the benefits of being a Neighbor Loaves baker as much more than monetary.

“The fact that we’re getting grain from a few hours away and into a community that doesn’t normally have access to fresh flour, that feels really good,” he said. The stability of the bakery and increased milling business allowed Baker’s Field to increase the acreages grown by some of the MN farms that fuel their mill, including AGC members Askegaard Organic Farm, Ben Penner Farms, and A-Frame Farm.

Pictured: Ben Penner talking with Montana Rasmussen of River Rock Kitchen & Baking Co. in St. Peter, MN, while making a delivery

Eric Schedler, miller & baker, Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery, Bloomington, IN
“We are still making Neighbor Loaves and I don't see an end to that, both from my desire to see this continue as a part of the bakery's work, and our ability to get donations,” said Eric Schedler. Donations are still keeping pace with their commitment to produce 75 loaves a week.

The director of Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard, the food pantry that receives Muddy Fork's bread, told Eric that the food bank they source from doesn't provide them with bread, since it is not considered a USDA commodity. What Muddy Fork delivers is enough for one out of the six distribution shifts that they run every week, so the contribution is hugely appreciated, and there is clearly room for more bakery businesses helping support these efforts.

Haley Traun, Farm to School & Community Director, REAP Food Group, Madison, WI
Last spring, AGC member REAP partnered with Roots4Change and Rooted to create Farms to Families / Fondo de Granjas a Familias, an emergency program to serve Madison-area Latino and Indigenous residents with local, nourishing foods.

“The concept of Neighbor Loaves—to support local agriculture, small businesses, and vibrant, connected communities—fits beautifully into our initiative to provide community food resources in the face of this devastating pandemic.”

This program is part of what inspired AGC to create Tortillas Comunitarias, an adaptation of Neighbor Loaves through which AGC member Tortilleria Zepeda prepared tortillas made with regionally grown and locally nixtamalized organic corn. REAP has distributed over 3,000 Neighbor Loaves and tortillas through the Farms to Families program. 

Chef Fresh Roberson, farmer, baker & Neighbor Loaves Chicago Coordinator, Fresher Together, Chicago, IL
Fresh not only baked her own Neighbor Loaves, but also coordinated bringing on new bakers throughout Chicago, helping to connect them with sources for local flour, working through logistical challenges, and helping promote the program. This work resulted in new bakers getting their hands into fresh flour and new connections between bakeries and food pantries.

“My love language is serving my community, and I really enjoyed the thought-out full systems approach,” Fresh said. It was such a stress reliever to knead dough, and a real joy to be baking again for neighbors; the loaves went directly into a Love Fridge that’s right outside their house, one of many free food fridges in Chicago.


Thank you to the farmers, millers, makers, community organizations, and generous individuals who have fueled this initiative. You can continue to purchase Neighbor Loaves directly from the entities listed on our website.  

If you’re interested in becoming a participating baker, reach out to Amy Halloran, AGC's Education & Outreach Working Group Coordinator, at

Photo: Michele Huggins, Doughp Creations

Please join AGC & the Bread Bakers Guild of America this Wednesday, 3/31 at 4 CT/5 ET for a panel discussion reflecting on Neighbor Loaves and other types of bread generosity that originated in response to the COVID pandemic. Sign up for the free discussion here


  • Katherine Kerhli, founder of Community Loaves in Washington. Community Loaves are baked in home kitchens, using regional flour, and Katherine has quit her day job to expand the program into other states.
  • Nate Hogue, AGC member Brake Bread in St. Paul, MN, has been selling donation loaves through its Loaf Share program, delivered by bike—as all their bread and baked goods are.
  • Michele Huggins, AGC member & Neighbor Loaves baker at Doughp Creations is milling grains and making a dozen loaves a week in Granite Falls, MN.
  • Scott Mangold, of Breadfarm in Washington created the Adopt-A-Loaf program, which has generated $30,000 of bread to donate over the past year.

In this recent Ace Hotel Chicago discussion, Fresh Roberson said, “When COVID hit, we quickly went into mutual aid mode — AKA: 'how do we feed people who are in need?' My mind went to those on the South Side of Chicago who might not have access to food distribution centers farther north."

Photo: Fresh Roberson @cheffresh82
We were fortunate to get lots of great media coverage for Neighbor Loaves throughout the past year, thanks in large part to the expertise of Shannan Bunting at Solstice Communications in Chicago and the generous support of the Chicago Region Food Systems Fund. It’s hard to pick favorites among the 40+ stories that covered Neighbor Loaves, but here are a few:

The November 2020 Food & Wine magazine featured a story about giving in the pandemic that included a piece on Neighbor Loaves, featuring quotes from Julie Matthei (Hewn, Evanston, IL) and Jenny Haglund (Bird Dog Baking, Ypsilanti, MI). The accompanying “bread village” sketch by Lucy Engelman shown here is a treasured Neighbor Loaves artwork and—according to her Instagram—her favorite of the set she produced for the story.

A November 3rd Medill Reports article included audio clips from conversations with people across the Neighbor Loaves value chain, including Harold Wilken and Jill Brockman-Cummings (Janie's Farm and Janie's Mill, Ashkum, IL); Ellen King (Hewn, Evanston, IL); and Faith Albano (operations manager, Hillside Food Pantry, pictured). 

Photo: Carlyn Kranking

The nationally-syndicated ABC segment Localish covered Neighbor Loaves on July 21, visiting Chicago's Lost Larson bakery to interview owner Bobby Schaffer. They also spoke to AGC's Alyssa Hartman from her home in Madison, WI, and included footage from Meadowlark Organics farm in Ridgeway, WI.

In this April 24 Civil Eats article, Amy Halloran described how regional grain had been building its infrastructure—from grain breeding to small regional mills, artisan bakers and grainshed orgs like AGC—and was well suited to rise to the occasion when the initial shock of the pandemic lockdown interrupted national supply chains. 

Photo: Sparrow Bush Farm

The bakers' trade magazine, Bake, featured Neighbor Loaves on April 6, 2020 with this brief article that introduced the fledgling program when the first six participating bakeries were up and running: Baker's Field Flour & Bread (MN), Hewn (IL), Lost Larson (IL), Madison Sourdough (WI), Muddy Fork Farm & Bakery (IN), and ORIGIN Breads (WI).

As always, we invite your thoughts & suggestions.
See you in two weeks for our next edition!

We leave you with this shot of Natalie Hinahara, Neighbor Loaves baker at Bard Bread & Pastry in Viroqua, WI, holding cracked spelt from Meadowlark Organics.
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