June is Immigrant Heritage Month in the United States, a time to reflect on our country’s diverse cultural heritage and to celebrate the legacy of immigrants who have shaped our history. When Hot Bread Kitchen started, we aimed to do a version of this every day—with bread. When we first began as a social enterprise bakery, women from around the world came to us to learn how to bake and start a career. They joined our organization for the same reasons immigrant women continue to come to Hot Bread Kitchen today: to develop the skills and connections that foster economic opportunity, beginning with a basic thing we all have in common. Bread.
“Every culture has a staple bread,” our founder, Jessamyn Waldman Rodriguez, wrote in The Hot Bread Kitchen Cookbook, “and in most countries women keep alive that baking tradition.” The first members of Hot Bread Kitchen did exactly that, bringing with them techniques and traditions from around the world and inspiring our line of heritage breads. Their recipes, stories, and experiences are still the foundation of our organization, which has grown from a bakery to a bustling array of career training programs, a food entrepreneurship incubator, and a quality jobs initiative to spark even better opportunities for economic mobility in food.
Bread is not our members’ only legacy. In response to breadwinners’ needs, Hot Bread Kitchen has adapted our programs and now offers holistic services like English language instruction and computer skills. But we are also thinking about how to increase systemic support for immigrant communities–and we believe that has to happen at work.
The businesses in our first Quality Jobs Initiative (QJI) Lab cohort are dedicated to expanding opportunities for their workers and implementing job quality standards that support their teams as well as their bottom lines. This month, members of the QJI Lab are joining with Hot Bread Kitchen to celebrate the legacy of the women who continue to inspire our work today. Throughout the month of June, members of the Lab are bringing back beloved Hot Bread Kitchen breads for a limited time only. A portion of all sales will support Hot Bread Kitchen, which continues to partner with immigrant women and women of color to create economic opportunity through an ecosystem of support in New York City.
We started our Quality Jobs Initiative QJI because our members, the immigrant women and women of color who are at the core of our work and community, deserve more opportunities to grow and contribute at work. We also know, from our time as a bakery, that food business owners want to offer those opportunities, but there are real operational challenges in the way. Inspired by our members–and by their legacy of creating something new from many unique experiences–we are working with a cohort of bakeries from around the city to address some of these challenges together.
Celebrate this Immigrant Heritage Month by breaking bread with Hot Bread Kitchen and our partners across the city. When we break bread together, we don’t just honor culinary tradition; we honor the people who bring those traditions to life.