Baking in the (Covid) Community. Part One: Baking For Neighbours

Scotland The Bread is working with Nourish Scotland on ‘Baking in the Community’, a programme bringing together community bakeries, baking projects and groups with the aim of improving access to nutritious and locally baked bread for people living in areas of multiple deprivation. Originally intended to begin with an in-person ‘train-the-trainers’ session in March, participants from across Scotland are now taking part in a series of online training and a skill-sharing sessions, to enable them to offer their own ‘Community Fermenter’ workshops for interested and enthusiastic would-be community and home bakers in their local areas. The groups involved will also benefit from ongoing mutual support, inspiration and motivation.

The Baking in the Community project includes eight groups:

In mid-April, we gathered virtually to find out how the organisations involved were coping with the restrictions placed on us all during lockdown. At a time when one might fear independent bakeries and sociable baking groups to be struggling to continue, we found instead that resourceful steps have been taken across the board to keep ovens glowing.

Over the next three posts, we will introduce you to the participating bakeries and the way they’ve been adapting their work during the pandemic. We hope you find some inspiration of your own from an introduction to these innovative, varied baking groups, and our outline of their imaginative responses to the crisis.

In this post, we explore some of the ways in which groups have been baking for neighbours and key workers.

Buckhaven Community Bakery

On the coast in east Fife, the bakery’s seven regular bakers all joined as part of an introduction to bread-making and never left. In more ordinary times they meet weekly in the community centre, and sell on a very low key basis to friends, family and community members. They also donate breads and cakes to Buckhaven’s community cafe and local shelter.

Pre-Covid-19 plans to expand the operation and meet more regularly have been put on hold, but the bakers are still meeting weekly on Zoom to bake together. Quite apart from the bread they make, the meet-ups are a chance for the group to support each other and socialise, and it has been important to maintain this contact at a time when so many are facing additional pressures concerning finances, mental health and social isolation. The bakers have worked through the technicalities of online gathering, and the group continue to come together to bake, share, restore some routine and socialise.

Doughlicious Bread Club

Doughlicious on Facebook

Liz Grieve started the Doughlicious Bread Club in January 2019 with the vision of making bread-making accessible to the whole community, and particularly people who can’t afford to attend fee-paying workshops. The diverse, inter-generational group is made up of people from Poland, Syria, France, America, Ireland and the UK, with some bringing their children along. The format quickly evolved from chat about bread and sharing recipes to practical sessions. Monthly evening bread-making workshops are now well attended, during which the group bake with organic Scottish flour. These workshops are held at The Stove Network Café: this community-based Arts and Cultural Creative Network supports the group by giving its café space free of charge. There is a great community feel to the group with people helping each other, and everyone involved giving their time on a voluntary basis.

Liz says: “I attended the Common Grains event last year. It was an inspiring day and a great opportunity to meet a diverse group of people with a common goal. I want to continue with my vision to get people baking [during the pandemic] – we have an active Facebook page. Numbers of members have really increased since March. I am delighted to be invited to be part of this group. It will hopefully provide a network to learn, exchange tips and ideas going forward.”

Before lockdown, the club had started reaching out to other local groups, for example linking up with the local school to run pizza days on Saturdays for children and parents. Liz’s work during the pandemic has turned to making local Scottish flour and sourdough starters accessible to people who would like to make their own bread. There is a lot of phone support on offer as people start to make bread, including baking for neighbours and local NHS workers, and there are plans to start a virtual meet up.

Prior to the lockdown there were plans to work with a community group known as LIFT (Lochside is Families Together) supporting people on limited incomes. This passionate and hard-working group of women started a food initiative to help local people through the Covid-19 crisis and are currently assisting 100 families weekly. After Liz ran an appeal for food on the Doughlicious Facebook page, some of the LIFT women joined the Facebook group and have expressed an interest in learning to make bread. The possibility exists for mutual support: Doughlicious has secured funds from The Edinburgh Bakers Trust, The Stove Network and donations from the community to purchase a community oven. The cafe where they currently meet doesn’t have space for it, but LIFT meet in an old school with a big kitchen that offers potential as a home. There are also plans for a cafe.

Photos above from Sourdough September 2019 workshops held at The Stove Network Café. Activities included children and their parents making dough using Scotland The Bread flour.

Doughlicious bread club member Ebistam and her daughter brought a Syrian cake to share at a recent workshop.


High Rise Bakers

Since around 2011, this group has been baking bread at Bridging the Gap, a community project in Glasgow. They started baking at their ‘BIG Thursday’ gatherings, noticing it was a great activity for people who spoke little English and lacked the self-confidence to join in otherwise. It was taken into the community as a stand-alone project in 2014. The HRBs bake twice a week in a borrowed kitchen at the bottom of a high rise flat, in the part of Gorbals with the highest SIMD (deprivation) rating – hence the name. Bakers are either Gorbals residents or from a refugee background, and customers are mainly local people. The group also bakes for special events, and run regular carer/child bread workshops in the local nursery. Very popular are family community ‘Burgers and Buns’ days, where families come together to bake bread and rolls, make burgers and salad from scratch then sit together for lunch and take a loaf and a recipe home with them.

The group has been trying to get a kitchen of their own for several years, but have encountered many hurdles. They still hope that this might change one day and allow them to move forward, but in the meantime they are deepening relationships locally with the resources available. Not having their own kitchen has proved a particular challenge during the pandemic, as they have been forced to stop baking due to being unable to access the borrowed space. They are looking into ways to sidestep this problem, possibly giving out the unused ingredients as bread-making kits including a loaf tin and holding Zoom bread-making sessions. Recipes are being shared on Facebook and WhatsApp. Bridging the Gap are looking into getting everyone they are involved with digitally connected as it seems unlikely that face-to-face group sessions will resume any time soon.

@highrisebakers on Facebook

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