Real Bread Week 2020: The Benefits of bread-making

Chris Young, coordinator of the Real Bread Campaign, on the success of last month’s 11th annual Real Bread Week

We launched Real Bread Week in 2010 at the Real Food Festival in London. The original idea came from co-founder, Andrew Whitley of Bread Matters, after surveys reported millions of unloved bread machines languished at the back of cupboards. He had the notion of encouraging people to dig out the machines to bake Real Bread.

We have since shifted our focus from machines to people. After all, that’s what the campaign is really about: the people who bake, buy and eat bread. Not to forget the farmers, millers, teachers etc.

This year, classes and activities took place around the globe to mark Real Bread Week, and even included the Dare To Lead racing yacht team making bread while on a round-the-world clipper race. We’re still collecting figures and feedback but already know of more than 2,000 social media posts from around 30 countries – and those were just the ones with the right hashtag.

Planet Leicester Bakers (PLB) founder, Michelle Stratford, told us: “It’s been the best Real Bread Week I think since I started PLB. Excellent profile given to the good that good bread can do.”

A major theme this year was the social and therapeutic benefits of bread-making. As part of our ongoing Together We Rise initiative, we highlighted inspiring organisations helping people to bake a better future, one loaf at a time. Organisations profiled on our website included The Good Loaf, in Northamptonshire, which provides training and employment opportunities to vulnerable women; Hove-based social enterprise Stoneham Bakehouse founded by Simon Cobb after he left his teaching career due to depression and anxiety; as well as The Lantern Bakery in Hampshire and Derwen College in Shropshire, which both provide training and employment opportunities to people with learning difficulties and disabilities.

Current Great British Bake Off champion David Atherton, who once volunteered for the Better Health Bakery run by a mental health charity, told me: “I’ve been making bread since I was small and have always thought it’s really important to my mental health. It’s very meditative, but maybe the main thing is that you’ve accomplished something.”

I’m now working with Ian Waterland of Leicestershire’s Knead Good Bread on a Together We Rise guide, designed to encourage and guide more bakers to set up therapeutic and social baking enterprises and projects. If interested, please get in touch.

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