On the Rise

On the Rise: Home Free Bagels uplifts the homeless
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Dense and chewy on the inside with a crisp crust, bagels are satisfying and filling. But the varieties baked by Home Free Bagels and sold at coffee shops and grocers around Asheville offer a more fulfilling reason to indulge.

Practicing what it describes as “compassionate capitalism,” Home Free Bagels sells organic, artisan-quality bagels made by once-homeless people who have transitioned into stable housing. Founded in 2011, the company has employed eight formerly homeless folks. Every week, owner Michael Akers and his sole full-time employee, Brad Devitt, hand-roll, boil, and bake about 1,000 bagels at the Blue Ridge Food Ventures shared-use kitchen in Candler. Devitt credits his Home Free experience with helping him enroll in Green Opportunities’ Kitchen Ready program, a local initiative that lifts people out of poverty by training them in the culinary arts.

Akers purchased Home Free Bagels last summer and recently diversified the operation by launching a line of organic cream cheeses, including a sweet Nutella-flavored rendition and a spicy, cranberry-habanero mix.

Akers asserts that his company’s small steps can lead to big improvements in employees’ quality of life. “If you make the commitment to change,” he says. “I’m here to help you.”                                                 

Take Away
Home Free Bagels’ profits benefit Homeward Bound and Just Economics. To find vendors, visit www.homefreebagels.com