I was a two-time loser
Those words were spoken to me by Ronnie, head of plant operations for Dave’s Killer Bread. I sat in his office as he described what landed him into prison the first time: selling ecstasy. Not long after, he was back in the system- which sadly, is not very uncommon for formerly incarcerated individuals.
Dave's Killer Bread, or DKB, is one of the few mass production operations I’ve come across that considers such details like which ingredients to use. That attention to detail is rare enough, so it was a surprisie to discover a business with individuals once filled with such shame.
Much like Ronnie, I myself have a past that at times makes me sigh out loud from deep in my diaphragm; a wave of shame, regret, confusion, and self loathing rolling throughout my body like a thunderstorm creeping on the horizon. As though every inch of me needs reminding what a fuck up I can be.
By the time I turned 15 years old I went from a straight-A student, an early model Leslie Knope, to a drug addict who stole from my family, spent time in an institution, was cuffed in the back of a cop car on multiple occasions, and was ultimately kicked out of high school by 17. I was a multi-time loser. I headed straight for NYC before my peers graduated high school; the path only bounced me harder. The difference between me and Ronnie, Crystal, Wilhelm and the others I met at DKB? I didn’t always get caught.
I sought out a story on DKB because it was a bread introduced to me by my father (and agreeing with him on anything in the realm of food is a giant triumph), but when I learned about their recidivism program, my interest went beyond food. I became obsessed with exploring the opportunity companies have to give people second chances.
America may have a fascinating addiction to putting things between two pieces of bread but its addiction to the prison system is far more dangerous. We incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. And what typically happens to those individuals who come out the other end? If they are lucky, a barely minimum-wage job. A stigma. A life filled with shame.
Now, this is a food show, and I have no intention to enter the deep well of conversation- albeit important- on individuals who should no longer be in society vs those that have paid back a very real debt to society. For the time being- until I can find a food related story- I will forgo focusing on America's very scary obsession with incarcerating male minorities often for small drug charges, or worse, no charges at all.
The conversation I’m pointing to is how important second chances are. Or forgiveness. Or re-jiggering a corporate structure that takes away a box you have to check that automatically omits your opportunities for getting real work (which typically reduce chances for employment by 50%), or paying a debt back to society in a real way. If you look at what Crystal describes in the episode on how she brings food into schools for kids who don’t normally have access to healthy meals, that is what I call a very positive imprint on our communities.
I may do my show and try my damnedest to promote individuals, businesses and farmers who are creating good in this world, but I look at what Crystal does and think how much more I should be doing. Because ultimately we’ve all fucked up once or twice or multiple times in our lives, and don’t we all owe something- even a little- back to each other and ourselves?
To quote the great Liz Lemon, “All of humankind has one thing in common: the sandwich.” If this connection through putting ingredients between two slices of bread can inspire a conversation around second chances- I’m in.
Kelly visits Dave's Killer Bread expecting to understand America's addiction to bread. But she ends up learning how this Milwaukie, OR, company is providing much-needed second chances and trying to help beat America's addiction to incarceration.