At 11 p.m. when most people are asleep, Kelly Baugh is grinding fresh red wheat and starting a large batch of bread.
Baugh bakes her bread at Living Green Bakery & Café on Second Street in Langley. On Sunday and Wednesday nights she makes 40-50 loaves of whole wheat bread for Whidbey Island Nourishes (WIN), a South End program that provides nutritious food for families in need.
Though others have now discovered her delicious bread and new bakery, Baugh said, “What I do for WIN comes from my heart. WIN is my first priority.”
WIN began seven years ago when Clinton resident Mary Fisher and a group of South Whidbey women wanted to provide weekend food for children who got free or reduce-priced lunches at school. They initiated the “Backpack Program” which provides weekend lunches to families that sign up.
WIN sends home family-size bags of food with qualified elementary school children on Thursdays to tide them over for the weekend. The lunches contain meat and cheese or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole wheat bread, yogurt, fresh fruit, mixed vegetables, string cheese and trail mix. If there are younger children in the home, WIN provides food for them too.
For teens and others with food insecurity, WIN offers complete lunches at Good Cheer Food Bank in Bayview, and a la carte items in coin-less vending machines at South Whidbey Commons in Langley and Clinton Community Hall.
WIN also provides lunches for the Family Resource Center, and nutritious snacks for the HUB, Homework Club, Whidbey Island Academy and the South Whidbey Children’s Center in Langley.
WIN food is prepared by volunteers who work three days a week in the kitchen of the former South Whidbey Primary School.
In 2013, WIN volunteers made 20,000 sandwiches, up from 16,000 in 2012.
At one of WIN’s fundraisers in 2013, Baugh’s whole wheat bread was served with bowls of hearty soup. WIN board member Jerry Stiers thought the bread was wonderful, so he approached Baugh about providing bread for WIN.
“WIN has long had a goal of using locally sourced ingredients in its bread,” said Stiers. “We have been buying bread from Costco, but wanted bread with no preservatives or added sugar. Kelly Baugh offered to supply us bread at cost, which makes it affordable for WIN.”
Baugh’s whole wheat loaves have just five ingredients: freshly ground red wheat flour, honey, salt, water and yeast. Baugh gets wheat from Coupeville farmer Georgina Silby and honey from Morningstar Honey Farms in Oak Harbor.
WIN’s mission to provide nutritious food for children resonates with Baugh because she had to learn to find her own food from an early age.
“If I’d had the kind of community support like WIN offers, it would have changed my whole life for the better. All kids need is one person to help them believe in themselves,” said Baugh. “Not having to worry about food every day gives kids hope that they can do better.”
Originally from Chicago, Baugh started working in the food service industry 30 years ago at age 11, making pizza dough in an Italian restaurant.
By age 18 she was the assistant manager of an A&W restaurant. Baugh also worked for 14 years as a prep cook and assistant baker.
In 2001, she received her associate of arts degree in baking and pastry arts from Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, then worked as a baker/manager for Great Harvest Bread Company and later for the Lucky Eagle Casino as baker and pastry chef.
Baugh has lived on Whidbey Island for 11 months. As the new owner of Living Green in Langley, she has transformed the space into a café-bakery and lively gathering place for kids and adults, including her own five children, her son-in-law and two grandchildren.
“South Whidbey has become a place for my family to belong,” said Baugh.
WIN’s standing order for 40-50 loaves of bread each week helps the bakery financially, provides employment for her family, and helps kids who need good food do their best.
“It’s a win-win situation,” said Baugh with a smile.
Betty Freeman is a WIN volunteer and a contributing writer for The Record.