Giving back to the community and those in need is a common resolution for 2020 – one in which bakers can easily get involved. But where should you start with a charitable initiative?

Here, The Real Bread Campaign’s coordinator Chris Young outlines key considerations for any bakery looking to change people’s lives for the better.

“The Real Bread Campaign has long believed that baking real bread can, and does, help change people’s lives,” Young says. “That’s why, as part of the Together We Rise initiative – a key activity of this year’s Real Bread Week – is throwing the spotlight on the bready brilliance that’s going on.”

Real Bread Week takes place from 22 February to 1 March 2020 and aims to celebrate the hard work being undertaken by bakeries across the globe aiding people who have a tougher time than most.

Those already benefiting from initiatives include people overcoming mental health issues, living with learning disabilities, facing growing older alone, disempowered women, refugees and/or victims of torture, and ex-offenders.

Social baking session

An easy place to start is by hosting a social baking session in partnership with a local charity or organisation, offering hands-on experience and skills that participants can put into action at home.

However, there are a number of questions bakers should ask themselves before doing so, Young advises, to make sure everyone gets the most out of the work. These include:

  • Who do I want to help? What challenge(s) do they face?
  • What do I want them to get out of baking bread?             
  • Do I need to work with experts in those challenges?        
  • Where, when and who will run the teaching?     
  • What business and staffing issues need to be considered?            
  • How will I fund this work? Should I run it as a side project or a full-blown social enterprise?
  • Do I need to get a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check?

Once these questions have been answered, it comes down to the practicalities of the baking session.

“Allow plenty of time so that neither the bakers or the dough are rushed,” advises Young. “If time is tight, consider smaller items (rolls, flatbreads or breadsticks) that are quicker to bake. Better still, split the session in two, having a meal or other activity while the dough proves or bakes. You might also weigh ingredients in advance, so the bakers have that time to mix, work and shape the dough.”

Using domestic equipment also helps to make the class more accessible, he adds, as people feel they can replicate the results at home – a feeling they might not achieve with industrial equipment.

A similar approach is advised when it comes to the products. Opting for bread with just three or four ingredients will make it easier for participants to follow along and take new skills home with them.

How baking can help

There are numerous studies demonstrating the benefits of baking, including one by the Campaign which found it can reduce anxiety and increase happiness in those struggling with mental health.

As part of the ‘Together We Rise’ initiative, the Real Bread Campaign is planning to create guidance and training to help more charities, not-for-profit groups, social enterprises and organisations include bread-making in their work.