Building Community with Bread

Many thanks to our supporter Elizabeth Waddington for reaching out and offering to write this blog post for us on the role bread can play in building communities. The Covid-19 crisis is pushing the notion of community unavoidably to the fore, as many are forced to rely on the support of neighbours for supplies, and connect with loved ones for virtual socialising and morale boosting. Like many Real Bread bakers and eaters, we have long respected and celebrated the power of bread to bring people together, and it is interesting to note the huge surge in demand for flour as people use their time at home to bake this most therapeutic of foods. 

From the inaugural Common Grains event at Bowhouse, November 19

Bread is such a ubiquitous thing in most of our lives. Yet few of us think about what it really means. Bread is key to life and central to the most basic beats of our society. Whether you already bake your own, or buy it at the shops to feed your family, bread is likely to be an important part of your life.

Just think about how bread has influenced our language. We talk about ‘breaking bread’ with someone. We talk about our ‘daily bread’, ‘earning a crust’ and something being our ‘bread and butter’… and casually talk about bread in many idioms we commonly use. So why do so many of us underestimate the importance of this crucial foodstuff?

Even in the most trying of times, bread brings people together. Often, it can do so in some rather interesting ways. Even when we can’t literally break bread together, it can be the dough that sticks our communities together.

Whether you are new to kneading or already an artisan baker, everyone has a role to play in getting that loaf to rise. By working together, we can build a strong and resilient community – through bread.

Building a Grain Growing Community

Growing common grains can help you play your role in strengthening crop resilience and keeping heritage grain varieties alive. By growing Scottish grains right here in Scotland, you will be able to connect with a vibrant community of ethical growers right here in our own backyard.

Local growing efforts help to build resilience in our food systems and allow more people to have access to locally grown, seasonal food.

Building a Community By Sharing Bread

Baking for family and members of your household can be a very rewarding experience. But building resilient community means also thinking beyond our own homes. ‘Bake Two, Share One’ initiatives allow you to spread the love and give the gift of fresh bread to those in your community who may not be able to bake their own.

In these days of social distancing, we obviously have to be very careful about how we prepare and deliver food. But by linking up with local aid groups or organisations, we may still be able to find safe avenues to share the bread we bake.

Sharing Starters To Get Your Community Baking

Community minded home bakers could also help to get their community baking by sharing sourdough starters. Give someone a loaf, they can eat for a day. But give them a sourdough starter and you could be giving them something far more.

Sourdough starters are added to and only improve over time. They grow and improve and as they are shared through a community, that community can grow and improve too.

Teaching Others How To Make Their Own Daily Loaf

Of course, starters, bread making equipment and other things you could pass on through safe distribution channels are not much good when people don’t have the skills they need to get baking. If you already bake bread, one of the most valuable things that you can do right now is share your skills.

Even when we cannot meet up and demonstrate techniques face-to-face, we can still get online and share skills in other ways. Writing articles and posts, taking photos, and making videos to share online are all ways to connect with others in our communities. This won’t just spread important skills, it can also forge new connections and strengthen the ties that bind communities together.

Plugging the Gaps in Community Food Systems

If you own a bakery or artisan bread company, you are uniquely placed to do great things in your community. As a local food producer, you can help plug the gaps in Scotland’s food system. Now is the time to reach out beyond your usual customer base, to see whether you can forge connections with others in your community – those who may not already have received the message about the importance of local, fresh produce – and excellent bread.

Strengthening community food systems will not only help us through our current crisis. It will also give us a firmer foundation, greater resilience and sustainability. It will help us not just survive, but thrive, whatever the future may bring.

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