Among the many discoveries made during a year of quarantine, we’ve learned that nothing brings people together quite like baking bread. Twenty years ago, Lower School teacher Daniel Rouse founded the Whosoever Gospel Mission Bread Project.
Among the many discoveries made during a year of quarantine, we’ve learned that nothing brings people together quite like baking bread. The trend exploded in the early days of the pandemic as people spent time at home with their families. The Huffington Post even wrote an article last July titled, “Why People Baked So Much Bread During Quarantine: An Explanation.”
Some might argue that this doughy venture began last March, but GFS has quite a long bread-baking history. Twenty years ago, when Lower School teacher Daniel Rouse was searching for a way to connect students and families with the Germantown community, he founded the Whosoever Gospel Mission Bread Project.
His second-grade class connected with Bob Emberger, director of the Whosoever Gospel Mission, an organization that provides shelter, food, education, counseling, and more to homeless men, women, and children. Daniel’s class baked a dozen loaves of bread each month for the Mission to use during their evening meals. Daniel also tied the project to his social studies curriculum focused on bread, one of the most basic human needs.
In 2018, the project expanded to three other second-grade classrooms, which rotated the bread-baking activity every month. “Each week that we baked, we provided the recipe, the resources (bowls, ingredients, and kitchen tools), and the means (two ovens in the Meetinghouse kitchen--and tremendous support from the Germantown Monthly Meeting),” says Daniel. “But GFS parents really did the work. Two or four parents at a time would facilitate small groups of students to mix and knead the dough, clean up the kitchen, and let the dough rise until we baked it a few hours later. Then, parent volunteers came back to school to pick up the bread and deliver it.” Since 1998, a total of 2,700 loaves have been made by students and delivered by GFS parents to the Mission.
Then last year, everything changed. The world paused and so did the project, until GFS parents stepped in. Collectively, they decided to flip the script on the bread-making and distribution process. Using some creative ingenuity, they made adjustments to coincide with the changing health and safety precautions. “Everything was completed virtual this year,” says Daniel. “Parents would have families sign-up to bake loaves right at home. Everyone still used the same recipe, but the baking was completed at home before being collected and delivered to the Mission.”
The pandemic has caused a rise in food insecurity across the country. “While COVID-19 has made the need for food access more acute nationally, we felt it was important to continue to focus on our local community,” notes Daniel. Each year, GFS classes visit the Whosoever Gospel Mission and learn about the services they provide to those in their care. “It was important to show students where the bread was going, and how a simple task like baking can make a difference.”