It was March of 2020. The world had shut down. Most restaurants and bakeries were closed, and it seemed like everyone was at home making sourdough bread. Russ Schroeder, owner of Nunweiler’s Flour Company, saw his business drastically change overnight. Before the pandemic lockdowns he sold about 80 percent of his flour to companies like bakeries, and only 20 percent went to individual consumers.
But suddenly the demand flipped and he had to adjust. “Our business changed dramatically in such short order,” says Russ, “that was a challenge to make that switch.”While many customers remember the flour shortages of the early pandemic days, Russ says it wasn’t the lack of flour that was the problem. “The funny thing is, we weren’t really out of flour. We were out of bags,” he says. “That happened to every flour mill, all their business changed to the retail packaging and then we sold the year’s supply [of retail bags] in a matter of two months.”
While it was a challenge to adapt, the demand for flour allowed his business to hold steady during the pandemic when so many others struggled. And that steady business inspired Russ’s choice to start supporting RJC High School as a corporate partner in education.
“During the pandemic I was looking to give back to the community in different ways because my business was doing okay, so I felt I needed to step up and help local things,” he says. While he didn’t graduate from the school, he has lots of friends who did. And many of his friends now have kids who are students at RJC.
Russ also made another connection with the school when he hired an RJC student to help bag flour during the pandemic. Getting to know him and seeing how RJC inspired students encouraged Russ to support the school. “I figured well, he’s a fantastic worker with really good ethics and really good overall,” he says. “If that’s an example of what RJC can inspire kids to do, then that’s a worthwhile thing to invest in.”
As a supporter of the school, Russ hopes it can continue to inspire students for years to come. “I hope they can recruit more students to be part of that unique experience,” he says. “They inspire the kids, that’s the biggest thing that I see… Inspire them to be good citizens of the community and have a good outlook on life in general.”
Russ’ interest in giving back to the community is not just evident in his giving through RJC, it’s also how he runs his business. As a smaller flour mill, Russ is able to support local farmers, building relationships with them and making sure they earn a fair wage for their work. “We have a direct relationship with farms we buy from, so not just an email here and there,”he says.“We actually go out and see the farms and we’re partnered with them.”
He also gives customers a chance to learn more about where their food comes from. Nunwieler’s provides farm to fork traceability, on the back of every bag of flour people can see the name of the farmer who grew it and the town they’re from. “I believe people should know where their food comes from,”he says.“We’re just a small step in feeding people. But we all need to know where it comes from and that everybody’s treated fairly.”
If you are interested in becoming an RJC coprorate sponsor, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (306) 232-4222.