It's interesting to me that bread is a treasured part of our heritage, a metaphor for basic needs, and is out of favor in current diet trends due to all the press about gluten and how it might impair our health.
Mankind has been creating some kind of bread since we mastered fire. It started with flat cakes of stone-ground corn or oats or other grains, roasted on hot rocks, hardy oat cakes carried by Caldonians into battle, through the Renaissance when artisans started milling grains into fine flour for the most wealthy citizens, into the post-WWII era of mass food production, refrigerated trucks, and frozen convenience foods. Wonder Bread was truly seen as a wonder. Experts were assuring us that cutting fat out of our diets would cause us to be healthier, so we ate bread instead. Whole grains? Sure, sometimes. But oh, how we loved our white flour and refined sugar.
Dozens of biblical references to bread cement its importance in our diets. Manna from heaven, the body of Christ, our daily bread, and more convince us that bread is good and right. Seems like stores donating bread to hungry poor people would win them double points in heaven or something.
I don't know whether bread sales are down with all the hooplah over gluten -- they probably are, and we're getting sucked into other food trends instead. But gluten isn't evil. It's a naturally-occurring protein in wheat, rye and barley. It's the part of flour that gets all stretchy when you knead bread dough, the part that you don't want to get tough when you barely mix your muffin batter. There's nothing inherently wrong with gluten. Over-consumption has created a sensitivity in some individuals, and there are plenty of other things that we ought to be eating more of, especially fresh vegetables, but gluten can be part of a healthy diet in moderation.
Interestingly, the bread that we get donated tends to be very high quality. I think that's because the really good bread has a much shorter shelf life than more processed breads. I loaded my poor little Prius to overflowing this morning, and crammed as much bread into the freezer as it would hold. It does my heart good to think of families who are used to doing without so many things taking home a couple of loaves of whole wheat sourdough and enjoying it warm. This is one small way that we can comfort people who have so little comfort.