Baking in the (Covid) Community. Part Three: Responding to Demand for Local Bread

In mid-April, Baking in the Community participants 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 would be struggling to continue, we have been inspired by the adaptability of bakers in Scotland who are working harder than ever to keep up with the demand. In today’s post, we’re sharing stories from participants who are exploring innovative ways of responding to the pandemic-inspired increased demand for Real Bread.

Baking in the Community is a partnership project with Nourish Scotland.

For more about Baking in the Community, see our previous posts part one (baking for neighbours) and two (building a customer base in unusual times).

Riverside Bakery, Stirling

Riverside Bakery CIC was started in 2014 as a home bakery in partnership with Stirling University Students’ Union. They are now located in a community kitchen in St Ninians, a mile from the centre of Stirling. Théo Laffargue was the main baker until March 2020, and handed over the bakery to Rosi Koll, who had taken part as a volunteer and trainee for a year and a half. They bake orders weekly for a handful of local drop off points (Stirling University, Neighbourfood Stirling and Balfron, and some local shops) and also bake for the monthly Stirling Farmers’ Market. They also run workshops with local community groups and for individuals.

Future plans involve assessing a tiered pricing system that would enable some people to a pay a supporter price to allow other loaves to be subsidised. Demand is currently very high and they are aiming to use this opportunity to develop their online presence to maintain the momentum post-pandemic. The Neighbourfood platform has made a huge difference to order volume: for the first time, they have to put a cap on the number of loaves that can be ordered. Being part of a group of local producers has given consistency and resilience. The main concerns are navigating the balance between not compromising on making good, healthy, nutritious bread; ensuring it’s affordable to everyone; and paying the bakers a decent wage. This trinity is famously difficult to combine.

Rosi Koll: ‘This was my first day at uni in Stirling. I was super enthusiastic about having found a local supplier of veg (via the Student Union’s Green and Blue space) and this is also where I met Théo and found out there was a way to get good bread here! I was one of the most enthusiastic first customers to the bakery (according to Théo at least…) and then slowly turned into a volunteer-apprentice and then an employee and now I took over the bakery entirely.’

Rosi: ‘The joy of having produced many nutritious loaves to feed Stirling! And the pleasure of working together, inspiring each other, learning and laughing with Théo. This all sums up why I love baking: supporting local food, learning real skills, doing a job that gives me purpose and meaning in life.’

The Riverside Bakery’s website
The Riverside Bakery’s Twitter feed
@RiversideBakeryCIC on Facebook

Strathpeffer Artisan Bread

Strathpeffer Artisan Bread was founded by Gordon Gallagher over a decade ago, and with his help the Burdekins took over in November 2017. Nikky Burdekin bakes from home, just outside of Strathpeffer (17 miles north of Inverness) in the Highlands of Scotland, with her daughters Chloe & Ellie. Initially supplying the Food Assembly in Dingwall (which was replaced by Dingwall Academy Market in 2018) they now combine an email ordering system with home delivery. Their customers value the delivery service whether they have young children, busy lives, food intolerances or physical limitations: this is especially the case since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, when they have experienced an upturn in email orders.

They have many debates over future plans: whether they stay as they are, expand oven capacity and increase bake days, or whether they follow Nikky’s dream and work to attract others and open a community bakery.

Nikky says: “I have really enjoyed sharing the joy of bread-making with my family and locally run courses funded by The Climate Change fund.  Now more than ever people need to understand how their food is made, the logistics and provenance that supports this. I would like to share this knowledge and the Baking in the Community course is a great start.”

@StrathBread on Facebook

Granton Garden Bakery

The bakery is part of the Granton Community Gardeners (GCG), a SCIO that has been growing on unused council land in North Edinburgh since 2010. GCG were involved in Scotland The Bread’s citizen science programme Soil to Slice from the start, and they started up a Bread Club to experiment with the home-grown grain but also build skills. From there came the idea of a community bakery, which launched in September 2019 after a summer pilot, baking at the Pilton Community Health Project.

The priority was to establish a viable production bakery before heavily involving community members in the baking, though Bread Club continues and people are welcome to drop in and help.

All the bread is now sold to a ‘pay what you can afford’ format which is gradually proving to work well. Future plans post-Covid will focus on training others to manage the bakery if required.

Charlie Hanks has reported that production doubled in the space of a couple of weeks after the lockdown was put in place. They are supplying bread with no contact through the bakery window, as well as running home deliveries. The bakery has also started helping local people affordably access organic flour for their own baking by placing orders with Scotland The Bread, Mungoswells and Gilchesters, bagging it up and supplying it affordably.

Granton Garden Bakery’s website
@grantongardenbakery on Facebook

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