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Hunger Beat

52 Stories, 52 Weeks: A baker's life

Paul Latture used to have a successful career at a commercial bakery, but was laid off in 2011.
Cakes, pies, donuts, cinnamon rolls. You name it and Paul Latture would make it at his job in a commercial bakery. And he loved it.

“I mostly worked on making donuts, but when the mood struck, the other bakers and I would experiment and make things for ourselves,” he smiled, recalling one specific concoction. “Once, we put some butter, cinnamon and apple slices on dough and made a pastry. It was delicious.”

Paul, 64, was laid off in 2011 after working at the bakery for seven years. Now, he can only afford to live in a kitchen-less studio apartment, so he no longer bakes. He hasn't been able to find a job, so he applied for early retirement.

“I've probably filled out 15,000 applications, but nothing,” he said. “I was planning on working well into my 70s.”

He struggles to live on his retirement check - only $604 per month - and $189 per month in SNAP benefits. But once a week, Paul receives a bag of fruit, vegetables, meat and nonperishable food from EZRA Multi-Service Center, a Greater Chicago Food Depository member agency in Uptown.

“The cost of food, everything, is so high,” he said. “Without EZRA, it would be very, very hard to make it.”

In addition to the bags of food, Paul participates in a monthly cooking program at EZRA, giving him the opportunity to bake again. He also works the Link machine at a nearby farmer’s market, which enables SNAP recipients to purchase produce from the market.

“I really just want to try to help if I can,” he said.

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