Doing Good With Baked Goods

Published on : 5/12/23
  • There’s something comforting about the smell of baked goods wafting from the kitchen. It brings about camaraderie and a sense of belonging. Together We Bake, a workforce training and personal development program and Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation partner, creates this sense of inclusivity. It also carries out the important mission of teaching practical skills and providing invaluable hands-on experience to underserved women, helping them find meaningful employment and move toward self-sufficiency. 

    Friends Stephanie Wright and Tricia Sabatini founded Together We Bake more than 10 years ago in Alexandria, Virginia. Stephanie has a background in social work and Tricia was running a small baking business out of her home. By looking closely at the needs of their community, they hit upon the idea of a bakery as a way to empower women. Starting with Tricia’s chocolate chip cookie recipe, they combined their strengths and aligned their passions to make a difference and created a program to help women facing barriers to employment. 

    Together We Bake gives underserved women an opportunity to learn new skills such as food production, food safety and business administration. During the eight-week program, they earn their ServSafe certification, a confidence booster for all. Learning and mastering something new and getting certified makes them feel good about themselves, Wright says. Perhaps even more importantly, participants develop soft skills, those personal attributes that determine success in the workplace.

    Stephanie Wright says: 

    Employers want workers who can show up on time, have a good attitude and get along with their coworkers. We give the women the opportunity to learn how to communicate assertively. We teach them that their voice is really important and that they deserve to be heard. These skills are important in their professional lives, but also in their personal lives.

    The women of Together We Bake come from different corners of the community. Some come from transitional housing programs and domestic abuse shelters or are referred by their probation officers, case managers or therapists. Others are referred by the Workforce Development Center or program graduates. Ten to twelve women are chosen for each session, and there are three sessions per year. To date, almost 250 women have “graduated.” While in the program, a trained community volunteer helps them develop their résumé, practice interviewing skills, start a job search and plan for their first job. This is tangible advancement that transforms lives and gives these women an opportunity for a better future. 

    Michelle, who graduated from the program in 2022, says Together We Bake is the best thing that has happened to her in a long time. I needed this program, but most of all I needed these women and the love and empowerment,” she says. “I would and I do highly recommend this program to every woman who needs a boost in life, who is struggling, who has an addiction, [or] who just can’t see the light. [I recommend this program] to any woman who just needs the empowerment or a safe place to go to live, love, laugh, learn self-worth and self-love, and – most of all – gain trust.

    To place the women and put their newfound skills to use, Together We Bake partners with area employers that are understanding, pay a fair wage and treat employees with kindness and respect. Sodexo’s Stop Hunger Foundation is a program funder as well as an employer partner. Through Together We Bake, Stephanie says the most important thing she’s learned is that women, no matter their circumstances, are so much more alike than different. Believing in someone’s inherent value and potential provides them with the opportunity to thrive. 

    We create a safe space, the women start seeing the things they have in common with people instead of judging or feeling judged. They feel empowered to help themselves, their families and their communities, she says. The women are so strong and resilient and phenomenal. It's a wonderful place to work!

    Sadie, a program graduate, agrees. Together We Bake is a sorority of women who have hit rock bottom but are determined to be successful in love and life, she says. I have been taught that no matter your circumstances, you're always able to rise above the negative labels that society has placed on us.

    For this year’s Servathon, Sodexo’s largest global Stop Hunger event, Together We Bake’s work is completely aligned with the foundation’s call to magnify the needs of the community, strengthen it with support, and advance lives with action and opportunity — and it does so in the most delicious way. Everyone, in fact, can taste all the labor of love by visiting TWB’s online store, offering cookies, granola and other goodies. 

    See Together We Bake in action and learn more about how you can help make a difference in the lives of others. Learn more about Sodexo’s Stop Hunger Foundation.