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King Arthur Flour's Helpline Rises To The Challenge Of Increased Bakers' Questions

NOEL KING, HOST:

Some businesses are starting to reopen, but many Americans are still working from home during the pandemic. That includes Maggie Perry.

MAGGIE PERRY: King Arthur Flour. This is Maggie. How may I help you?

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

She's one of 17 people who answer the King Arthur Flour company's Baker's Hotline.

PERRY: I believe my official title at King Arthur is a baker specialist.

KING: That means she spends all day answering questions about baking.

PERRY: We print our 1-800 number on every single bag of flour that we sell.

INSKEEP: And since the pandemic started, that hotline has been lighting up all the time.

PERRY: In April, we took well over 10,000 phone calls and almost 8,000 emails, and that's five times above what we were doing last April.

KING: The question she's been getting the most lately?

PERRY: Why isn't my sourdough starter working (laughter)?

INSKEEP: The calls come from baking newbies, parents doing home projects with kids and people just trying to relieve anxiety.

PERRY: A lot of the calls have been just people stressed out and looking for somebody to tell them that it's going to be OK. Your bread will rise; it might just take an extra half-hour.

KING: She gets calls from essential workers, too.

PERRY: I got a call from a firefighter in LA. He was actually in the car driving to his next overnight shift, and (laughter) he had his sourdough starter strapped into the seat next to him.

INSKEEP: Strapped in safely, she talked him through how to bulk up the starter, and Maggie says the caller was not the only one who was excited.

PERRY: Apparently, his whole firehouse was, like, getting super into him bringing the sourdough starter anytime that he was spending the night there so that they could all take care of it together.

KING: Maggie says she is happy just to be of help.

PERRY: I always say, we're this magical combination of a grandmother, your best friend and a therapist.

INSKEEP: Three times the support, all rolled into one.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BREAD AND BUTTER")

THE NEWBEATS: (Singing) He likes bread and butter. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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