Eat a Brownie, Change a Life

By / Photography By Amanda Celestino | October 03, 2017
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Chocoholics, brace yourselves: Greyston Bakery produces 7 million pounds of rich, chewy brownies a year. 7 million! This mouthwatering amount includes the 35,000 pounds of brownies a day they ship to Vermont to be included in certain flavors of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. Greyston Bakery has been the sole provider of brownies for the ice cream makers for 28 years. But why? The answer lies in both the incredible baked good and in Greyston’s overarching mantra: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies, we bake brownies to hire people.”

The Yonkers-based company, like their ice-cream-making associates, cares about their social impact—from the ingredients they source to their environmental impact. Greyston uses fair-trade sources and 15% of the energy that runs the factory comes from solar panels. But it’s the way the bakery embraces their employees and the surrounding community that raises them above and beyond industry standards.

For nearly 35 years, Greyston has used their innovative Open Hiring process. No questions are asked of an applicant, they can simply come in and sign their name on the waiting list, and they receive a call when an opening becomes available. This method takes away any hurdles that job seekers have previously faced due to language barriers, lack of diploma, or previous jail time.

Once a call is received inviting new employees through the doors of the bakery, they receive six weeks of training and become part of the industrial kitchen’s line staff. From there, employees are placed into positions that suit their skills with ample prospects for promotions. Currently, there are 97 bakers creating within the Greyston kitchens.

Shaniqua “Shay” Anderson, a three-year veteran of Greyston Bakery
Shaniqua “Shay” Anderson, a three-year veteran of Greyston Bakery

I took a tour of the Greyston Bakery facilities. The kitchens are in use 24 hours a day churning out their goods. The smell of chocolate fills the light-filled space and the employees chatter away as they measure, mix, bake and pack their wares. I had the chance to speak with Shaniqua “Shay” Anderson, a three-year veteran of Greyston Bakery. Shay was incarcerated and, once out of jail, unable to find a job due to her background.

“Once I heard about Greyston, I came in and put my name on the list, and I got the call a few months later,” she says. “It all has to do with pride. This place doesn’t judge you by your past and that helps you pay the rent and take care of your kids.” Like all employees, Shay started on line duty, but was promoted to lead operator of the facility’s “small bakery” that’s dedicated to orders from Whole Foods Market and Greyston’s online shop.

Since that call came in 2014, Shay has taken full advantage of her time here. “Every time something good comes along, I try it out.” She sometimes works with Greyston’s marketing on events and says it’s helped to get her out of her shell. “First and foremost, Greyston has helped me stay off the streets. Now I stay to obtain as many skills as I can,” she says.

Greyston’s innovation and social impact does not stay strictly within the walls of the bakery. Employees and the surrounding community also benefit from additional resources that the company provides. These programs include workforce development, an early-learning center, affordable housing and community gardens. (Shay plans to use these programs to get her GED and maybe dabble in classes for the culinary arts.)

But make no mistake: This bakery is not so focused on goodwill that they’ve forgotten about the quality of their product. The Greyston Bakery goods are mouthwatering and it’s easy to forget that they’ve come out of a package. Their brownies are extreme decadence in a square—moist with a deep, rich chocolate flavor. Their line of baked goods includes chocolate fudge brownies (with a vegan offering!), Snickerdoodle and Brown Sugar Blondies and two varieties of cookies (exclusively sold at Whole Foods Market).

Denying your sweet tooth is a difficult thing to do. Finding a bakery that makes delightful morsels and helps communities just might make you feel less guilty about your splurge. Eat brownies. Change lives. Order more!

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