MARCO ISLAND, FL — For several years, BEMA has partnered with The Women’s Bakery, a Rwandan social enterprise bakery founded to empower women with access to gainful employment through the production and sales of bread throughout East Africa. At BEMA’s 2021 Convention, held June 26-28 in Marco Island, FL, the association’s membership rallied to answer The Women’s Bakery’s call for donations in support of its One Bread Project, which support school snack programs in Rwandan schools.

The project, which initially served one school and 440 children, now assists five elementary schools and roughly 3,000 kids, thanks to the support from corporate sponsorship partners like BEMA.

Not only has the One Bread Project improved student performance through the nutrition it’s providing — the bread products are made with local ingredients including vegetables, fruits and nuts — but it has also increased bakery production by 300%, according to Tessa Soni, South regional manager for The Women’s Bakery, who spoke at the convention via Zoom from Rwanda.

Three of the schools have committed to buying bread from The Women’s Bakery through the end of July, when the bakery’s original grant expires.

the women's bakery BEMA

From left: The Women’s Bakery CEO Markey Culver and Madeleine Binsfrahm, development and communications director.

“We would like to replicate this program at our other bakeries because we subsidize the bread initially, and then when the subsidization ends, half the schools stay on and pay for the bread themselves, and we may acquire other schools who have heard about the program,” said Markey Culver, CEO of The Women’s Bakery. “The goal has been to expand the program to other bakeries because, prior to BEMA Convention, we were only producing for the project in one bakery.”

To reach that expansion, The Women’s Bakery needed $12,500 through donors and other sponsorships. During fundraising events held throughout BEMA’s convention week, the association raised more than $25,000, doubling the bakery’s goal. BEMA has been a corporate sponsor of The Women’s Bakery since 2019. In that time, it has raised $20,000 as part of the association’s giving-back budget through events such as the telethon held during its 2020 virtual convention.

“Supporting The Women’s Bakery is bigger than BEMA and the industry as we all know it,” said Kerwin Brown, BEMA president and CEO. “With priority areas that include education, economic opportunity and nutrition, the organization has an impact on villages, families, individual women and countless children. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the bakeries in Rwanda and hear directly from the women who have benefitted from The Women’s Bakery, and that experience made me proud to be an ambassador.”


“Supporting The Women’s Bakery is bigger than BEMA and the industry as we all know it,” said Kerwin Brown, BEMA president and CEO.


After raising more than $4,000 through member donations and a BEMA match during the convention’s golf tournament, Tim Cook, VP of the Linxis Group and CEO of Shick Esteve and 2021-22 BEMA board chairman, encouraged membership to help the bakery reach its goal.

women's bakery tim cook

Tim Cook,VP of the Linxis Group and CEO of Shick Esteve and 2021-22 BEMA board chairman, at BEMA Convention 2021

“The bottom line is that BEMA is a strong supporter of The Women’s Bakery, and that’s a sentiment our member companies share,” Cook said. “It’s a cause we all stand behind.”

In his role of board chairman, Cook places an emphasis on service to the industry, which was a driving factor in this call to action.

“I want to stand on a platform of service and giving back to the industry,” Cook said. “This is how the culture of bread can spread across the continents.”

The BEMA member companies who contributed to the fundraiser are as follows:

  • FoodTools
  • Rademaker
  • Doran Scales
  • Commercial Baking
  • Corbion
  • Shick Esteve
  • The Austin Company
  • The Henry Group
  • Kwik Lok
  • SPF
  • Bundy Baking Solutions
  • Sosland Publishing
  • Cusano’s Bakery
  • Great Western Manufacturing
  • Doughnut Peddler
  • CMC America
  • The Khoury Foundation
  • BEMA
  • Michael Cornelis of Bundy Baking Solutions
  • Trevor and Amanda Walker of Bundy Baking Solutions
  • Don & Michelle Osborne of Intralox
  • Delia & James Justable of Forbo Siegling
  • Sean Nicholson of Ignition 90



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