BRICKS TO BREAD COSTA RICA PROJECTS
ST. LOUIS PARK, MN
In St. Louis Park, some visitors’ introduction to Bricks to Bread comes when arrive to pick up their bread. Others attend fundraising events centered around oven-baked pizza, cinnamon rolls, cookies, soft pretzels, and a variety of loaves. So popular are baking days that family, friends, and neighbors place their orders early knowing that the loaves sell out. The annual Oktoberfiesta fundraiser, first held in 2017, has taken place every year, regardless of early snow, unseasonable heat, or the pandemic.
Bricks to Bread founder Nancy Alvarado had just gone back to work in 2016 after raising two children. At the same time, she was determined to start a nonprofit organization to help raise Costa Rican women out of poverty. She told her husband, Chato, whom she met in Costa Rica while in the Peace Corps from 1990-1992, that her first paycheck was going toward constructing a brick bread oven in their yard in St. Louis Park just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota. A year later, a group of volunteers built the blueprint model oven. Nancy’s oven is seen from the street, inviting passersby to stop and inquire…and, if their timing is right, enjoy a hot pretzel or freshly baked boule.
The oven is a crucial part of the mission and a visual message of the organization’s passion for empowering women in Costa Rica. The oven functions the same way, requires similar maintenance (even considering Minnesota winters), and provides the same benefits as those in Costa Rica. It is a source of warmth, sustainable income, and a gathering place for community. Volunteers have even scheduled baking days to align to the schedules of Costa Rican oven recipients.