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After all these years, the Bread Lady, and her porch, still going strong

Shauna Devenport, aka the Bread Lady, has been handing out sustenance to the needy and homeless for decades

SHARE After all these years, the Bread Lady, and her porch, still going strong
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Shauna Devenport unloads a box of bread products onto her porch in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. Devenport has been gathering and placing donated food items on her porch, six days a week, for more than thirty years.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The guardian angel of 600 North is still at it. A hip replacement for the former airline baggage handler couldn’t stop her, neither could wrist surgery, nor shoulder surgery. Passing 65 last year sure didn’t slow her down.

Shauna Devenport is still putting food on her porch at 348 W. 600 North. And hungry people are still picking it up.

This manna for the homeless has been going on for over 30 years now. Don’t ask Shauna for the exact starting date. It’s as much a blur for her as the tens of thousands of the poor, the down-and-out, the hungry and the needy that have filed in and off her porch.

Suffice it to say she was a lot younger when decades ago a neighbor recruited her to help with an October food drive called Share the Harvest. The object was to distribute the surplus food people had in their gardens and cupboards to those who could use it. This also included local grocery stores.

When Shauna was dispatched to a Smith’s food store in Bountiful, the following exchange took place:

Shauna: “I’m here to pick up the excess bakery for Share the Harvest.”

Store worker — as Shauna is filling three shopping carts with days-old loaves of bread and other baked goods: “I wish we could have somebody come in and do this every day because we just throw this out.”

On the way back to the collection site, Shauna recollects another exchange that took place:

“I got in my little truck, just me, radio’s not on, I hear this voice: ‘You need to do this.’ I said, ‘No, no, I’m too busy.’ So I had this conversation with God all the way back to the site and I’m arguing the whole way. By the time I get back I’m in tears and I go, ‘Fine, I’ll do it, but you better find me help!’”

That’s how she became the Bread Lady.

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Shauna Devenport picks up donated food items from Catholic Community Services in Salt Lake City on Monday, Jan. 30, 2023.

Laura Seitz, Deseret News

She’s been at it ever since. She did it the entire time she was a baggage handler at the airport and she continues to do it now that she’s retired from that career. The Bread Lady’s hours remain the same, though, because as Shauna points out, “It was a full-time job when I was working a full-time job.”

The porch food campaign has evolved through the years. With the advent of the Utah Food Bank, grocery stores now give almost all of their excess there. Now, Shauna collects surplus from the Bountiful food pantry daily and makes sure it gets to the places where those who are not patrons of the Utah Food Bank look for sustenance. She makes her rounds of Hildegarde’s pantry at the Episcopal church, the Rescue Mission of Salt Lake, Catholic Community Services, the Salt Lake City Mission on Redwood Road, and, ultimately, the front porch on 600 North.

She’s made it her life’s work to help feed — and clothe — those who might otherwise slip through the cracks.

This is hardly the first time she’s been written about or featured on television or social media. Over the years any number of news outlets have done stories on “the Bread Lady.” The woman who feeds the unfortunate, on her own, without a foundation to fund her or a PR agency to publicize her, is a perennial feel good story.

But she is a tough person to pin down for an interview. It took a month to arrange this one. She confesses that praise and acclaim have never been her aim.

“I don’t need the attention,” she says.

So why does she do what she does?

The Bread Lady pauses, then produces this stream of consciousness:

“You know there was a book came out a while back called ‘The Secret.’ I think they charged like $16.99 for the little book. I said all they ever had to do was come ask me, because the secret to life is giving service and the most selfish person in the world should think about giving service because you get way more in return than what you give. It’s like tenfold. And when you get frustrated and you’ve had enough of the negativity and you’ve had enough of the rudeness and seeing people who are frustrated with life and they don’t know how to switch it around to be happy, or to find happiness in something small, or joy, or hope, and you think, ‘if I’m going to get all the same people in one day, I’ll walk away’ — then you get somebody who shows up that is so grateful and that’s when you say, ‘this is why I do it,’ ‘this is why I do it.’”

As a postscript, she adds, “People forget how simple life should be. We make it so complicated, especially in this country. We have such an entitled attitude and it’s like ‘I want more, I need more’ … and we throw away too much food; it’s now approaching 50%.”

Her cause is to put a small dent in that percentage. For evidence of that, if you’re in Salt Lake, drop by her porch and see for yourself. Help yourself to a loaf of bread, or a donut, or a banana, or maybe a burrito that was on the shelf at Maverik yesterday. Everyone’s welcome.

And for the record, the Bread Lady has had helpers along the way from time to time: her husband Jeff, for instance, and their four children and grandchildren, and the occasional friend and neighbor. But the one constant has been Shauna. Her and God.