When the Livingston Food Resource Center (LFRC) began baking bread, little did they know what significant changes would lie ahead.

The idea started when former Executive Director Michael McCormick noticed that the bread donated was often stale bread from the grocery store, full of corn syrup and preservatives. In addition, many LFRC clientele had underlying health issues such as diabetes, and McCormick thought, ‘what if we baked our own bread?’

The team began baking whole wheat bread with Montana grown Kamut flour out of the regular pantry kitchen at the LFRC. Soon, clients were coming in and asking for the bread, and shortly after that, people who were not clients were coming in and asking if they could buy the bread. This popularity led them to a whole new idea, “Why don’t we open a bakery?”

What resulted is an impressive, forward-thinking business model. First, Livingston Community Bakery is not a for-profit entity; it was designed to be a support pantry and is a direct program of the LFRC. All of the proceeds go directly into supporting LFRC programming. This includes providing their whole wheat and Kamut bread, free of charge, to any food pantry in Montana that wants it. And, in the bakery, this bread is available on a pay-what-you-can basis. The complimentary bread program is in its early stages, but Executive Director, George Peirce, says they “hope to be supplying as many food pantries as possible.

Their signature bread isn’t the only thing they make; an array of extremely popular baked goods are also coveted - artisan bread like sourdough, ciabatta, and focaccia plus croissants and other delicious pastries. And, all of their baked goods are made with Montana-grown grains and flour.

Each week, the bakery hosts a new menu of prepared salads, soups, and sandwiches. The options change based on what is happening in the pantry, and local ingredients are used whenever possible. “The same soups, pasta sauces, and salads that they are selling at the bakery are the same foods we are serving our clients,” Peirce said. “Everyone is treated to the same delicious, nutritious food.”

The concept has been so successful the bakery recently underwent a remodel to keep up with increased demand. LRFC plays a significant role in developing a robust, sustainable local food system and actively supports food-related economic development. They are reaching beyond the immediate need to stop hunger and get to the root causes.

Workforce development is a big piece of that. Peirce says, “The real issue around food insecurity in the county is poverty. We have a commercial kitchen with a talented kitchen crew, and if we can provide people with kitchen skills, they can get a job locally.” The bakery has created 8 new jobs in total since opening, 4 new jobs with the expansion, and currently have two apprentice bakers. Peirce tells the story, “One staff member who started as a client and learned in our kitchen is now a full-time employee and is thriving. We hope to replicate that as much as possible for those who need help.”

While the business model is admirable, the food is equally impressive. So, if you’re in Livingston, be sure to make a stop; you’ll be grateful, body and soul!