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Bread & Justice bakes sourdough for a better tomorrow

Mo Cheeks is turning out 50 loaves of sourdough bread a week from his home kitchen in Madison
Published: Apr. 12, 2021 at 6:00 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Mo Cheeks was probably ahead of the curve when it comes to the ‘baking sourdough during the pandemic’ craze. Rather than beginning his baking efforts during lockdown, Cheeks tried his hand at creating his own loaves in the very beginning of 2020. Little did he know that over a year later, he would be turning out 50 loaves a day.

“If I wind back the clock by a year and I was to tell myself, ‘hey next year you’re going to be waking up at 3 a.m. to make bread,’ I wouldn’t find that very believable,” Cheeks said.

Yet that’s exactly what he’s doing these days. On bake days, the former Madison alderman wakes up early, preheats his oven, and bakes the sourdough loaves until 9 a.m. After a morning in the kitchen, he then starts his day job.

Cheeks puts in the long hours and early mornings for his cottage bakery Bread & Justice, a micro bakery he started out of his Madison home with a mission to give back.

“The express purpose is to donate 100% of the profits from the sale of each loaf to an organization working to build a more just society,” he said. “Each month we select a different non-profit.”

Cheeks said the non-profits he chooses work to build a more “just and equitable community.” For the month of April, money made off the loaves will go towards the NAACP.

While Cheeks bakes to help others, over the past year, baking has helped him.

Cheeks wakes up early, setting an alarm at 3 a.m. on "bake days," to make sourdough bread.
Cheeks wakes up early, setting an alarm at 3 a.m. on "bake days," to make sourdough bread.(NBC15)

“In the summer of 2020 after the killing of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and so many other African Americans in this country, I found myself really just diving deep into bread making. I think frankly as a means of self care,” he said. “It was just a therapeutic activity that I was doing on a regular basis. As I was dealing with my own emotions and trying to figure out how I process this, started making more bread, and then giving it away.”

At that point, Cheeks said he learned about a project called Bakers Against Racism, and began selling bread to raise money for the ACLU and Black Voters Matter. By the end of 2020, Cheeks said he got the idea to create his own operation, Bread & Justice.

“I think of Bread & Justice as a community project,” he said. “I’m the baker and I’m the business owner but this community that exists through the subscribers of the email newsletter, it’s hundreds of people that are not only here in Madison but across the country and across the world who choose to be part of this mission, this project. Folks who believe in the importance of real bread and real justice and want to support bringing good into the world.”

Cheeks packs up his sourdough loaves for people to pick up.
Cheeks packs up his sourdough loaves for people to pick up.(NBC15)

Followers can subscribe to Cheeks’ newsletter, and order bread online at his website. Cheeks said in March, he raised about $800 to donate. Cheeks also said that members of the Bread & Justice community have been making additional donations, and even matching what the bakery donates each month. For more information on Bread & Justice, click here.

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