Baking can be about so much more than making bread or cake – it can also be about making a difference.
A fantastic example of this is the bakery established by Prior’s Court, a residential school in Berkshire for young people with severe autism.
With less than a third of autistic adults in the UK in paid employment, the bakery called Bread & Beyond was opened last week to provide vocational training and an opportunity for employment.
The school’s residents have complex needs, and baking has been found to be well-suited to their strength and skills. Baking bread is a tactile experience that it is easy to understand and relies on routine activities which can be established and learned.
“There is a massive amount of joy in baking and that is experienced from a child through to an adult and across the whole spectrum of needs,” explained master baker and confectioner Steve Fudge, who helped ensure the Prior’s Court bakery is commercially viable and meets industry standards.
It’s a truly inspirational initiative – I will be delighted to see the charity realise its ambition of opening 10 such bakeries across the country.
And it is only one example of the good work baking can achieve.
Research by the Real Bread Campaign has suggested baking bread reduces anxiety and increases happiness in those struggling with mental health. A pilot study in 2017 among mental health care service users found they all felt happier, more creative and gained a sense of achievement from baking. The majority also reported it gave them a sense of purpose, made them more relaxed and, in two-thirds of cases, less anxious.
More recently, The School of Artisan Food hosted a Mindful Bread workshop run by Ian Waterland, who has worked in mental health for 28 years, and now runs Leicestershire micro-bakery Knead Good Bread. He said his work with young people with learning disabilities had shown him how beneficial bread-making can be
Through projects such as the Bad Boys Bakery in HM Prison Brixton, baking has also helped people with convictions gain new skills and reintegrate them into society and employment.
In the US, a national brand was created when Dave Dahl joined his family bakery after serving 15 years in prison. He developed the Dave’s Killer Bread brand that has since been acquired by US bakery giant Flowers Foods and rolled out nationally across the US. The bakery employs many staff with criminal backgrounds, and has created the Dave’s Killer Bread Foundation to encourage other businesses to do so.
There are many more examples, of course, ranging from national initiatives to local charity fund-raisers – each one making a difference.