Photography by Robert Merhaut Together we Bake

Stephanie Wright (43) Tricia Sabatini (46)

Baking is therapeutic, and it’s not uncommon to whip up two dozen cookies to relieve some stress. But for the women who take part in Together We Bake in Alexandria, the act of baking is about more than a stress reliever. It’s a second chance. The program, which works in collaboration with a transitional housing facility called Friends of Guest House, aims to teach women convicted of nonviolent crimes skills in food production and safety, product packaging and delivery and customer service. “We help them with new skills but also give them the confidence to get back into the workforce,” says Sabatini. Grouped into teams, the women at Together We Bake run an actual bakery. One team bakes and packages chocolate chip cookies and granola for sale, while another team might learn how to update a business website, take inventory, order ingredients and handle social media. And they’re not just going through the motions; the bakery’s cookies and granola mixes end up on store shelves that include Alexandria’s Cheesetique and Whole Foods branches. Each team’s duties are periodically swapped to make sure the women receive hands-on experience in every step along the way. At the end of their training, participants take the ServSafe exam, an accredited program for food service workers. To date, 90 percent of Together We Bake’s women have passed the ServSafe exam. The program also has an 80 percent success rate, with 51 women having completed its curriculum thus far. “We really love what we do,” Wright says. “We think that every community out there needs a program like this.”


(June 2015)