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Anti-commercial co-op bakery rises in Durham

Javiera Caballero, a baker at Durham’s Bread Uprising, presents the bakery’s products at Green Flea market.
Javiera Caballero, a baker at Durham’s Bread Uprising, presents the bakery’s products at Green Flea market.

All people are entitled to food, according to members of a Durham bakery, Bread Uprising.

Operating under an unusual business model, Bread Uprising gives bread and other baked goods to the bakery’s clientele in exchange for whatever they can afford—a self-described cooperative bakery, said Tim Stallman, one of Bread Uprising’s bakers.

The bakery currently serves 38 Durham households, a “radical majority” of whom are minorities, said Anna Lena Phillips, a member of the co-op since its inception in 2010. Each household pledges a weekly payment in exchange for a week’s worth of bread. A household may pay nothing, as the objective of Bread Uprising is to provide food for those who need it, not only those who can afford it.

“It’s not about buying bread,” she said. “We’re working to create a solidarity economy—people take what they need, contribute what they can and we work out the balance from there.”

Stallman is one of three bakers, and he said all members of the co-op have other primary places of employment and work at the bakery part-time. The bakery has no owner. Instead, it is under collaborative ownership of all of its members, Phillips said.

Although Bread Uprising’s impact may seem small right now, the co-op is riding the wave of a recent fundraiser that earned more than $10,000, with more than 80 percent of the donations being $50 or less. The fundraiser concluded Sept. 20, and the bakery will be using the revenue in coming months to experiment with new co-op models. Stallman said he would like Bread Uprising to be able to become a major employer for each of the bakers.

“We want to become a co-op that not only provides bread to people, but can provide a primary income to our bakers,” he said.

In addition to ramping up compensation for the bakers, Bread Uprising will be testing new methods of distribution, Phillips noted. This Saturday, members from the bakery set up shop for the first time at Durham’s Green Flea Market.

Although Green Flea is less than 10 minutes away from campus, the demographics of the market were starkly different from those of Duke’s campus—almost every vendor and customer was black or Latino.

The racial composition of the market seemed to be in line with Bread Uprising’s mission statement, which seeks to give food to those limited by certain socioeconomic factors, and the fact that a large majority of its clientele are racial minorities.

“We understand that people’s access to food is limited by oppression in all forms, including the exploitative and dehumanizing relationships structured by the capitalist system, the global dominance of a destructive and profit-driven industrial food system, sexism, racism, heterosexism, transphobia and classism,” says the vision statement, which can be found on the bakery’s website.

At the Green Flea Market, Bread Uprising was offering focaccia, cinnamon rolls and a variety of different bread loaves to market patrons while distributing brochures that explain the premise and goals of the co-op bakery. Phillips added that they would like to continue attending markets, revenue permitting.

“We’re going to see which models allow us to reach the most people and give the most bread,” she said.

In terms of expansion of baked goods, Stallman said he and his fellow bakers would like to try their hands at cake design, which would append to the large list of goods they already produce. Tomato basil bread, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, cookies, granola and muffins are among the foods outside of their most popular whole wheat loaf.

Cooperative business structures are not new to Durham. Some prominent co-ops in the Bull City include the Durham Bike Co-op, where community members can earn a bicycle by putting in service hours servicing other bikes, and the Durham Central Market, a co-operative grocery store that focuses on selling local food.

“We would like to collaborate with other organizations to achieve food sovereignty in Durham,” Phillips said.

Although Bread Uprising has not interacted much with the Duke community, members of the co-op will be bringing bread from the bakery—which is located on the corner of Yancey Street and Amette Avenue—to East Campus for the North Carolina gay pride parade and festival, said Noah Rubin-Blose, another baker. They will be giving out their typical goods as well as rainbow-painted cookies in the shape of North Carolina.


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