The sky's the limit for these women who are baking bread. And now the bakery caught a big break.

What do bread and a path to success for women have in common?

For a group of bakers in New York, the answer is a whole lot.

First, take a minute to feast your eyes on these delicious creations:


YUM! All photos taken by Evan Sung, used with permission from Hot Bread Kitchen.

And these:

Or how about these little pieces of heaven?

Now that you're thinking about delicious, warm bread, let's get to the reason I'm torturing you with baked goodness: Hot Bread Kitchen.

Hot Bread Kitchen's almacén location, where those delicious bread items are sold.

Hot Bread Kitchen is a New York City-based bakery, and so much more... It gives foreign-born and low-income women a real opportunity to build a secure future.

Here's how it works: The bakery raises money for training programs by selling multiethnic breads — like Armenian lavash, Mexican nixtamal tortillas, Moroccan m'smen, Persian flatbreads, and Bangladeshi chapati — that are inspired by the women it serves.

(Even better: They don't use any chemical preservatives, colors, or flavors, and they source locally grown produce and grains. Double win!)

Jessamyn Rodriguez, CEO and founder of Hot Bread Kitchen, explains: "We help women who have skill and passion around the culinary arts become successful in the baking industry."

The delicious byproduct? "A line of multi-ethnic breads that we sell to help pay for a high quality training that includes math, English, and job skills."

Rodriguez told me that they're basically the United Nations of bread! (I love that.)


It might be hard to picture a bakery changing lives. But it has.

Take Altea, for instance. (Name has been changed to protect her privacy.)

Rodriguez shared her story with me: In 2011, Altea's dream came true. She won the green card lottery and migrated from Albania to America. In New York City, Altea found a job as a childcare provider for an Albanian family. But she wasn't making much money and she felt isolated. She wanted more opportunities for her future, but she didn't know how to get them.

A Hot Bread Kitchen graduate told Altea about the paid training program, and she started in 2013. Before long, she was a pro at mixing and shaping dough.

But she still wasn't fluent in English and faced an uphill battle as a result. She didn't let that stop her, though. Altea kept learning and soon was working on the commercial ovens where, Rodriguez said, "her true talents shined. It is one of the most difficult tasks in the bakery."

Altea's full-time position at Hot Bread Kitchen allowed her to earn 35% more money than her previous job, plus she gained healthcare, paid vacations, and other benefits.

In 2014, Altea was offered a full-time position as a shift manager at Hot Bread Kitchen, "earning 35% more than her job in childcare with paid vacations, healthcare, and other benefits," Rodriquez said.

Altea's hard work paid off. Today, she's a lead baker at Hot Bread Kitchen. She trains other bakers on the ovens, all while devoting time and energy outside work to developing her English skills.

"I am thankful for Hot Bread Kitchen for learning how to speak English and to work at a job I love," says Altea.

A baker working in Hot Bread Kitchen.

Graduates of Hot Bread Kitchen's training program work at bakeries all over New York City — "changing the face of a male-dominated industry," says Rodriguez. And, she adds, "We get excited sharing the traditional bread recipes from around the world that many New Yorkers haven't had the opportunity to taste."

Just last month, Hot Bread Kitchen earned a game-changing opportunity: a mentorship with JetBlue airlines.

Called "BlueBud," the JetBlue initiative is designed to foster relationships with environmentally and socially responsible food companies and start-ups.

The goal is for Hot Bread Kitchen to learn how to become a supplier for large commercial companies — like airlines. To accomplish that, JetBlue offers tours of catering centers, speaking and taste-testing opportunities so that JetBlue employees and customers can become familiar with Hot Bread Kitchen. And the bakery will have access to JetBlue so that they can learn everything they need to know about becoming a vendor.

Rodriguez told me that for a growing social enterprise, it's a tremendous opportunity. "We are hopeful that access to JetBlue's audience will allow more people to hear the stories of the women who we train and increase awareness of all of the incredible multiethnic bread offerings that New Yorkers might miss out on if organizations like ours didn't exist," she explains.

For Hot Bread Kitchen, the mentorship opportunity could open so many doors for women just like Altea.


I asked Rodriguez where she hopes her organization will be in five years.

"I see New York City as the proof of concept — we have, over the last five years, proven that there is a market for our mission-driven company," she explained. Now, she wants to replicate the model all across the country. "Our partnership with JetBlue is synonymous with our hope to travel beyond our New York roots to prove that our business can impact the livelihood and prosperity of women in many geographies."

I hope it does just that!

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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