Taking bread to Baskerville

Baskerville School in Harborne is a day and residential secondary school for students on the autism spectrum. It’s a great school with wonderful staff working with some amazing kids.

They got in touch with us earlier in the year about taking a student on work experience for a week or so. One of their goals is preparing their students for life after school, so getting experience of the wild and weird world of work is key.

Unfortunately we haven’t been able to take placements due to the pandemic. We plan to start again soon, but in the meanwhile were keen to get involved in whatever way we could.

We’ve been thinking a lot about how to make our cookery school more accessible, bringing our knowledge to more than just those who can afford it. We’ve also been thinking about how we can share what we know about the business of bread, from sourcing the grain to running a bakery. We’re always happy to pass on advice ad hoc but something more sustainable and long-term is the goal.

Since we opened we’ve had groups from Stirchley Primary School visit the bakery to make a big mess with dough – sorry, to learn how bread is made – and we’re looking forward to starting that again next year. We’re now thinking that this piece of “community engagement” could become part of our actual business, working with teachers to bring our classes into schools on a professional basis. We know we can do it – we just need a toe in the door.

So while we couldn’t take placements from Baskerville, we could bring the bakery to them for a morning. So last Thursday Martha took a sack of flour to Baskerville’s kitchen classroom for a four-hour workshop.

Martha started the session by talking about how bread is made from flour, yeast, salt, water and time. She also discussed how we manage making hundreds of loaves in a bakery by working as a team, from mixing the dough to selling to the customers.

They then had a go at mixing their own dough, savoury and sweet. A pizza was made from scratch along with bread rolls and cinnamon buns. One of the students was determined to master baguettes with amazing results.

And then, of course, they ate everything as a group – the best part of any cookery class!

Next Thursday the group will be visiting us for an hour to see what a busy bakery is like and what other jobs go on behind the scenes. And who knows, maybe one day you’ll be eating bread made by Baskerville alumni.

This is certainly something we intend to do again, both at Baskerville and at other schools in Birmingham. If you’re a teacher interested in Loaf visiting you, or know how we can best contact schools, please do get in touch.

While we got a warm glow and the sense of a job well done, this was incredibly valuable for the students. There’s only so much the Baskerville staff can do in the school environment. Short work placements, often for a week or so, help students develop an understanding of their potential place in a world that doesn’t always make sense to them.

Taking an autistic student placement can be a bit daunting for a business, especially if you have no experience with the neurodiverse, but Baskerville is a very supportive school and they’ll be with you all the way. And trust us, these are great kids.

Julie Heidarinia is the works skills coach at Baskerville who looks after placements and you can contact her here.

How to build a bakery

Last week we received our crowdfunder copy of Knead to Know More, the microbakery handbook from the Real Bread Campaign. The first edition helped a number of small bakeries find their feet, including Loaf which was about to move from Tom’s kitchen to Stirchley High Street. This new edition has been totally updated with lessons learned.

While it looks like a cookery book, there’s actually very little about breadmaking inside. This is about the business of baking, from funding and equipment, to pricing and selling, to employing and accounting. A lot of this could be covered by a basic small business guide, but the value here is the specific inside knowledge.

Take Loaf, for example. As a bakery we occupy a strange middle-ground. We’re not an automated, mass-production bakery, but we do produce a lot of bread. Our bread, pastries and sweets are made by hand but the equipment we use alongside that, from the mixer to the fridges to the oven, is industrial grade. How did we know what to buy?

Some of our knowledge comes from hiring people who have worked in more traditionally commercial environments, or by going on a class where industrial equipment is used. But a lot of it is research, talking to friends and suppliers. This book reads like a brains-trust of people who’ve been there and are happy for you to learn from their experiences.

Knead to Know More is surprisingly comprehensive, covering everything from the building you bake in to the labelling of your bread. It was great to see a section on health and welfare covering manual handling and flour dust (‘baker’s lung’ is a real problem in our industry), but also sleep and mental health.

There’s also a decent chapter on Community Supported Baking, an alternative to traditional investment loans that anchor your business in the community it serves. This was how Loaf initially funded our move to the high street and it’s good to see the process formalised here.

Ultimately this is a level-headed book about sustainably growing a bakery business from a hobby into something valuable to yourself, your customers and your community.

If you’ve spent your lockdown accidentally creating a bakery business in your kitchen and are pondering the next step, this is a great place to start. Our copy is on the shelves in the cookery school and if you’d like to borrow it for an afternoon before buying your own, let us know.

Return of the Cookery School

It feels really good to be bringing back our classes. Loaf started as a cookery school with a bakery attached. So shutting down that part of the business really felt like losing our soul. 

But it had to be done. Beyond the basic issues of running anything in the pandemic, our classes are a social occasion. You learn to make the food together and sit around a table to enjoy it together. The learning comes as much from the informal conversations as the course notes. We could have delivered the content distanced in masks or remotely but it would have been a pale shadow. So no half measures. Put it in hibernation ‘til it’s safe to do it properly again. 

Of course we are still in a global pandemic. It is a confusing time in the UK. It seems like half the country has returned to normality while the other half is still terrified of touching door handles. In the absence of coherent government guidance we’re playing it safe and sticking with our lockdown procedures for the rest of the year. But we’ve also had time to think clearly about our building and how safe it is. 

As a commercial kitchen environment we are blessed with industrial-level ventilation. The oven sits in the centre of the building with a large extractor which pulls air through all the rooms and out the roof. Similarly the cookery school has three big extractors over the hobs. We’re confident that the air is exchanged frequently even with the doors closed. 

Similarly, while surface transmission is not as big a danger as originally thought, the nature of our business means we clean and sterilise everything we use as we go.

Combined with vaccinations and people wearing masks responsibly, we feel our cookery school is certainly safer than most places, both for us and for you. 

Of course many will disagree, and that’s fine. It’s a confusing time. No one is right. But this is what we’ve decided to do. 

What’s new?

We’ve gone through all the courses this summer and made some changes. Most are small improvements and iterations, but three are worth noting here. 

Firstly, we’re sorry to say Steve Rossiter will no longer be teaching. He needs to focus on bringing his butchery business out of the pandemic and doesn’t have the time or capacity. As such our Pork Butchery and Charcuterie class is now Sausage and Charcuterie as Lap-fai Lee extends his half into an all-day sausage-making masterclass. If you enjoyed our German sausage takeaway last December, you’ll know how good he is. And now you can be too! 

Secondly, the Japan course now just focuses on Sushi and has been renamed accordingly. Rather than survey a whole country in one evening, you’ll now master a range of sushi culminating in a delicious meal. 

Finally, Heritage Grains was a brand new class that we barely had a chance to run before the pandemic. Over the last year we’ve learned a lot more and are on the cusp of working directly with small wheat farmers and mills. We want this course to reflect that so we’re taking a few months to refine it. 

Gift vouchers

All vouchers that expired during the pandemic have been extended until the end of 2022. If you can’t find your voucher code, or don’t think you received one for a cancelled class, or if the website won’t accept it, please email us and we’ll make things right. 

A new waiting list system

Our classes can get very popular and sell out quickly, which is a nice problem to have. We are working on long-term plans to increase capacity without reducing quality, but in the meanwhile we’ve overhauled our waiting list system.

If a course is sold out or you can’t make the dates, please fill out this form. We’ll then email you when we have new dates or if there are cancellations.

This is not a marketing list. We will keep your details for up to six months and then delete them.  

How Bwindi Gorilla Coffee came to Stirchley

Last month we trialled selling bags of coffee imported directly from a social enterprise project in Uganda. It was brought to our attention by Ben, a regular Loaf customer who had been ordering them for his friends and family.

Ben thought we might be interested in helping him scale up and they proved very popular, quickly selling out with great feedback. We ordered more and last week received a nice big delivery.

We asked Ben to write a short piece explaining how the project works and how he came to be involved. Over to you, Ben!

Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is one of only two remaining habitats for mountain gorillas. Loaf is now stocking coffee that helps support gorilla conservation and the local community. They are grown without artificial fertilisers or pesticides by a community-run Ugandan NGO, Bwindi Conservation for Generations Foundation.

Growing the beans provides an income to local growers, including Batwa people who were displaced by the formation of the National Park. This means that they don’t have to encroach on the park to make a living. This helps conserve wildlife and to sustain the community. The Foundation also supports honey production, handicraft and ecotourism projects, and a ‘gorilla gardening’ programme where female gardeners work with children to create school food gardens.

I first met the Foundation’s founder, Happy Bruno, when we worked together on a project establishing community orchards in YMCA and Foyer sites around Birmingham. We kept in touch after the project ended and I began to arrange Bwindi honey and coffee orders for my friends. The response to this was very positive, but there is a limit to what can be done in this informal way. Working through Loaf will allow everyone to step up and hopefully provide a more regular income from the growers.

Meanwhile, a Halesowen-based charity, the Intouch Global Foundation, has agreed to support the ‘gorilla gardening’ project, and primary schools in Dudley, Bristol and Leeds have also come on board. It is great so see the next generation getting involved in this growing initiative.

Bwindi coffee is available as whole arabica beans in dark or medium roast. We’re selling the 500g bags for £18 each, comparable with local roasters.

For more on the work of Bwindi Conservation for Generations Foundation, visit bwindi.org.

A postcard from Machynlleth

As many of you know, Loaf began in Tom and Jane Baker’s kitchen on Dell Road in 2009. They baked bread for the neighbours and taught the first breadmaking classes before moving into our high street bakery in 2012.

In 2016 Tom and Jane took parental leave which turned into a sabbatical as they travelled Europe’s bakeries and wheat farms looking for their next adventure. This led them to Machynlleth in Wales where they set up Rye and Roses.

We’re often asked after Jane and Tom so we asked them to send us an update. Over to you, Bakers!

Hello!

It’s so lovely to be sharing our news with you.

A lot has happened since 2009 when we founded Loaf in our house in Cotteridge. In 2018, we moved to mid-Wales to start a new adventure together with our son Reuben, surrounded by stunning countryside. After going travelling for eight months, we dreamt of having our own sourdough bakery and micro-homestead. And we’ve done just that.

Our new business, Rye and Roses (Rhyg a Rhosod in Welsh) is now thriving, supported by a fantastic community of customers, friends and neighbours. Tom specialises in baking sourdough bread and pastries. Jane grows ingredients for our bread, pastries and wood-fired pizzas.

We’re also lucky enough to be growing our own heritage wheat with friends, with the help of local farmers and Meirionnydd Vintage Club — old boys and their tractors. Wheat hasn’t been grown in this area for over 50 years. There’s enthusiasm for re-discovering old farming knowledge, and equipment and welcoming diverse farming back, one wheat field at a time.

Mid-Wales also has a strong Welsh culture, so as a family we are also proud to be learning Welsh — including Reuben (aged 5) who is taught in Welsh at school.

Trains go direct from Birmingham New Street to Machynlleth, so if you’re ever visiting the area, please come and say hello. You’ll find us at the historic Machynlleth Market on Wednesdays, and at our bakery on Fridays in the nearby village of Penegoes. Plus, there are some great places to holiday here – mountains, hills and seaside.

We’d love to see you, Loaf customers old and new.

With love from Machynlleth,

Jane, Tom and Reuben Baker x

New honey!

We’ve been looking for more local honey suppliers for years and at the recent Birmingham Beekeepers show at Winterbourne we struck liquid gold with not one but two apiaries!

Arden Forest Honey is a family-run business in the ancient forest of Arden with 40 hives pollinating wild flowers and local farms. We’re starting with their standard Wildflower honey but hope to expand the range if there’s demand.

Rea Valley Apiary could not be more local. Started and based in a back garden on Cartland Road, the business manages small colonies across south Birmingham. The current batch we have on sale is from the Stirchley hives, so if you have a garden locally there’s probably pollen from your flowers in this honey.

Both of them should be able to supply us with decent quantities over the year so along with Gareth’s honey we should always have the sticky sweet stuff in stock. 🐝

Meatballs!

Last Friday Molly brought meatball sandwiches to the Loaf lunch menu for the first time and it went down very well.

“The meatballs were ace!” said Dave. And who are we to argue!

To keep it special, Molly will be making meatballs the weeks where she’s in charge of the lunch menu, which is about once a month. Watch the skies!

Migrant Help – this quarter’s charity

Every quarter we raise money for a different charity working in Birmingham, and between now and Christmas it’s Migrant Help. You can add a donation to your online order or at the counter when you visit us, or give a more substantial donation directly with Gift Aid.

We were told about Migrant Help by a customer who has been volunteering with them and thought they might welcome a bread donation. When we got in touch we discovered a national network with big ideas for dealing with a situation that is only going to grow.

More immediately, they are supporting hundreds of newly arrived migrants placed in hotels across Birmingham by the government, providing them with food, clothing and, importantly, activities. They are on the front line of the current Afghan refugee crisis and urgently need funds and resources.

One reason for running this quarterly fundraising is to find organisations we can work with long term, and we have a really good feeling about Migrant Help. Whether it’s spreading awareness to our networks or running cooking activities, we reckon we’re well placed to help them build something. We hope you do too.

Loaf’s visit to Mill Farm

Six of Loaf went on a road trip last week. Here’s Sarah to tell you what we got up to.

Jonathan, the owner of Mill Farm near Worcester, has been farming for over 50 years, so he’s seen a lot. But in the last few years he’s had to radically rethink how he approaches farming. The industry has been ravaged by politics and overwhelmed by the constant demand to supply more at lower margins. The land can’t bear it and something needs to change.

His neighbour Emma, inspired by the work of the South West Grain Network, convinced him to start growing heritage wheat varieties and a second yield was harvested this year. Emma contacted Loaf last summer asking if we’d like to buy some of it, and even if we didn’t, would we like to come and have a look around the farm?

She finished her email with the following:

“Our main aim is to re-imagine the food system where small-scale regenerative farming systems are producing nutrient-rich, tasty food in healthy soils, re-building short supply chains, and a new grain economy that is full of personality and traceability. If this aim resonates with you, then I look forward to hearing from you even if the purpose is simply to stimulate a Midlands bread and grain network.”

A couple of weeks ago we visited Mill Farm to meet Jonathan and Emma to find out more. We took some of our bread and shared a picnic under the shade of a massive oak. Sitting in one of the recently harvested fields, Jonathan told us about his plans.

One way to keep a farm alive is to get clever, creating a sustainable environment for better crops to grow without exhausting the land — from crop rotation to conserve the land, to wild flower areas to encourage pollinators, to making big decisions about what to grow and what to not grow.

Jonathan has won awards for his conservation efforts, and it really shows. We piled on the back of his truck for a tour around his fields, seeing how he has mindfully chosen to invest in the land, protecting the environment and conserving it for the future.

Growing heritage and ancient grains is a learning curve and comes at a cost, however. Can you imagine investing so much in such a large area of land with all that is going on in the world? Farming is highly exposed to such uncertainty. So much is out of the farmer’s control.

Jonathan could grow a standard commodity grain, but he and Emma want to do better. Fundamentally, they want healthy land, they want to grow grain that is tasty, they want to keep it interesting and they want to make a living from it.

I think that’s what resonates so much for me, because I see the same fundamentals in our coop at Loaf. We don’t cut corners and we aren’t chasing easy profits. We want balance. A great product that honours the grain and the land it grew on.

We were all so inspired to listen to how their new farming strategy is unfolding. It was a delight to learn from them, and we are particularly excited to take home some of the grains that they are growing.

As you’ll know, we are new to the heritage grain scene too. For us bakers this opens up a whole new world of flavour, texture and nutrition.

We really connected with Mill Farm on so many levels and look forward to bringing their grain to our loaves and onto your plates. We truly hope this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Paying a Real Living Wage

Over the summer we found the welcome pack from the Living Wage Foundation which had arrived at the start of the pandemic and had somehow been forgotten. Among other things it contained a sticker which you might have noticed in the shop window.

A few years ago we decided to peg our wages to the Real Living Wage, making it a fixed item on the balance sheet. If Loaf’s profits increase then we can of course pay more, but we won’t go below it.

So, what’s that all about and why did we join?

The Living Wage Foundation was set up in by Citizens UK and is independent of the government, though it has cross-party support. The rate is calculated each year based on the cost of living — the current rate is £9.50 per hour — and paying it is purely voluntary.

The reason it’s called the Real Living Wage is to distinguish it from the mandatory government National Living Wage, a 2016 re-brand of the “minimum wage”. This is based on a different calculation and is currently lower, at £8.91 per hour. While the naming might seem cynical, the gap between them has been reducing and the intention is that they eventually reach parity.

A key factor of the Real Living Wage is in the name. It reflects the cost of living in a society as opposed to simply surviving — a subtle but important distinction — affording a basic but decent standard of living without the need for government subsidies.

We decided to become an accredited living wage employer because supporting this cause is important to us. As a worker-owned business we set our own pay, but many of our peers in the food sector do not have this right.

Campaigning for a real living wage doesn’t just help workers live a decent life — it also normalises the conversation about wages and workers’ rights. Many of you are concerned about the provenance of your food, and rightly so.

What we ask is that you also concern yourselves with the people preparing, serving or delivering you that food. Are they being paid enough to live on? Is their employment stable with regular hours? Can they be fired with zero notice? Are they able save for a rainy day?

We’re not interested in shaming small businesses and we don’t ask you to interrogate your server about their wage packet. We just ask that Birmingham’s food and drink renaissance brings the workers along with it.

Rachel’s Sarehole Mill adventure

As a bakery, Loaf is very lucky to be able to make connections with mills and farms across the country. As you’ve seen in previous newsletters, we are passionate about developing our knowledge of heritage grain and forming bonds with farmers and millers. But you don’t need to travel far to find a mill with some real heritage: Sarehole Mill.

As a person who didn’t grow up in South Birmingham, I was pretty ignorant of the lore around Sarehole Mill — from Matthew Boulton’s metal flattening to it later inspiring Tolkien’s world-building. And despite moving here many years ago I only got around to investigating the nice green areas I would keep hearing about very recently. 

It came about as my wife had recently set herself a goal on the My Virtual Mission app, walking the distance between Paris and Berlin before the end of 2021. Signing up for the Run of The Mill 5k seemed perfect, with the bonus of blowing out some cobwebs from a year spent mostly indoors.

The 5k itself costs £10 to enter. Sarehole Mill is encouraging sponsorship, but it’s not mandatory. You have to start or finish at the Mill, but otherwise you can plan your own route, running, walking or jogging — you just digitally record your distance to show when you collect your medal. 

This obviously opened a whole host of options and gave us lots of room to plan a walk that would explore some new areas. We decided to use the Birmingham Tolkien Trail as our template, taking in the Cole valley and Moseley Bog.

We are also avid Geocachers which, if you are unaware, is a digital treasure hunt that is great for families and walkers. There are boxes hidden in plain site of various sizes and difficulty ratings. When found, these containers hold logbooks which you sign with your name and hide again for someone else to find. 

We have played for many years and there are a few around Sarehole Mill and south Birmingham, which was a great addition to the walk. There are quite a few in Stirchley as well, and they are usually grouped into walks so you can plan to pick up a few en route. 

Afterwards we took a tour of Sarehole Mill itself, and although the water mill is closed for repairs, you can still walk around the mill pond and visit the cafe. The bake house was full of activity as they also sell pizza and there was bread to buy in the shop, which was so great we went back for seconds. 

Run of the Mill continues until the 19th September and, as we seem to still be having some warm weather, I really recommend taking the chance to visit. The Loaf team plans on visiting the mill as soon as we are able and look forward to developing a great relationship in the future.

Loaf’s heritage grain adventure continues

Over the last fortnight you might have seen some ‘heritage grain’ sourdough and baguettes on the shelves at Loaf. This is part of a long-term project we’ve been working on to become part of the local grain economy, and we’d like to explain what that all means.

Heritage grain is a broad term. It can be understood as grain from wheat that is not popularly farmed in the modern era, the baking industry having consolidated around a small number of grain varieties.

For the baker, heritage grains can be fun to work with, behaving differently as dough and producing flavours not usually found in standard breads. Sometimes the difference is subtle, sometimes it’s dramatic. It’s wheat, but not as you’ve come to know it.

While there’s nothing to stop heritage wheat being produced on an industrial scale, it tends to be grown by smaller farmers in lower yields. The local grain economy (explored in-depth in the six-part Cereal podcast from Farmarama) is a movement to connect these farms with bakers to create a sustainable market for these grains. At Loaf we feel we’re perfectly positioned to be part of this, being an urban bakery with many growers in the surrounding countryside. 

During his furlough in January, and inspired by Cereal, Phil began making contact with local farmers and this month milled a couple of varieties for the shop. 

Last Thursday and this Wednesday we had a sourdough milled from Mulika wheat grain from Greenacres farm in Shropshire, one of the pioneers of heritage grain in the UK. It has quite a deep malty flavour with a slightly sour tang and we’re keen for it to become a regular on our shelves as feedback has been great. 

This week we also had some baguettes made with flour from Wildfarmed, a really interesting venture which was featured in a previous newsletter. Initial results were good but we want to spend more time with it. If you picked one up on Wednesday, please let us know what you thought.

Off to Somerset!

Phil’s enthusiasm infected the whole baking crew and when the opportunity arose to block-book the Advanced Sourdough Using Regional Grains workshop at Field Bakery, we jumped at the chance. 

Field is a bakery set up by Rosy Benson on Gothelney Farm in the Quantock region of Somerset, a family farm transitioning to an agroecological model. While baking for the local community they’re also keen to build a network of environmentally aware bakers working with sustainable grains. 

The course covered a multitude. Naturally we got to work with the wheat varieties, learning how to get the best of out them in the bakery. For example, they don’t perform like modern wheats, tending to be more delicate. Every variety is different so you need to be both attentive and reactive to the process, taking a bit more care as you guide it through fermentation.

There was also a detailed tour of the fields, which offered the bakers a rare chance to see where their raw material comes from. And there were pigs!

This is all contextualised by Gothelney and Field’s involvement with the South West Grain Network of farms, mills and bakeries from Bristol to Land’s End, working towards the goal of an alternative grain economy. 

We left tired but inspired and keen to help build something similar here in the Midlands.

More than a flavour

While these heritage grains taste great, it’s important to remember this is about much more.

A local grain economy supports farmers and bakers who cannot compete with large agribusiness and reduces transportation distances.

A wider variety of grain is more sustainable in a changing climate and creates a stronger biodiversity.

Finally, by growing this sector we can make these grains affordable to more people.

As a co-operative and a community bakery, we strongly feel that heritage grain is something we should be involved in. We will be spending the next year or so exploring this world, seeing how we can fold it into our values and principles. This need not be an exclusive, expensive luxury — many of these grains were historically the staple diet of ordinary people. We want to see if they can be again.

Meanwhile, on Dale’s allotment

Some of you will know Dale Hipkiss: member of Artefact, half of artist duo Hipkiss & Graney and ecological campaigner. Dale has long been a friend of Loaf, and for the last five years has been experimenting with heritage grains.

He started with a selection requested from the John Innes Centre, a gene bank in Norwich that stores “germplasm core collections which represent the global natural variation of highly important cultivated species and their wild relatives.”

Dale planted these on his allotment in Stirchley in 2016, replanting and bulking them out to see which grow best in this climate. He expanded to a corner of a field in Henley (pictured above) and this year is taking on another half an acre.

His long-term plan is to acquire some land so he can autonomously develop a farming system better suited to adapting to climate change. And, of course, he wants to turn his grain into food.

It’s safe to say, you’ll one day be be able to buy a Hipkiss loaf from us, made from flour that started its journey in an allotment in Stirchley. It doesn’t get more local than that!

Music to make croissants by

You may have seen the croissants being made through the window as you queue for your bread. Often this is Molly, as she’s the best at croissants. 

It is said* that viennoiserie is a state of mind as much as a technique, so if you’re struggling with your pastries maybe you need some music to help you focus. Molly has graciously shared her croissant-making playlist and the good news is it’s suitable for other non-pastry related tasks too! 

Here’s the playlist on Spotify (Best played on shuffle for maximum serendipitous juxtapositions.)

*It may not actually be said…

Introducing ASIRT

For the third quarter of this year we’re raising money for ASIRT, a small Birmingham-based charity that helps people in dire need of help due to their immigration status.

We asked Fiona at ASIRT to write about the work they do and how the money you raise will be used.

ASIRT (the Asylum and Immigration Resource Team) work to alleviate destitution caused by immigration issues. Many of our clients have no access to public funds, some are homeless, and where people have support it is minimal. For all of them, the underlying cause of this vulnerability is issues around their immigration status. Our clients often live in poor housing conditions, are without resources, have associated health conditions and are extremely vulnerable.

ASIRT’s specialist immigration advisers work on the core issue of regularising status, while ensuring that clients are accessing the support they are entitled to. Making sure people have a roof over their head and food on the table are primary concerns, particularly for our families. We advocate with schools, landlords, children’s services and other providers, and apply for funding for our clients’ basic needs.

The children we work with are some of the most deprived in the region. Many come from families who have no recourse to public funds and are supported by the local authority. This support gives a minimal payment to parents, and pays for temporary accommodation. Many of these children are entitled to British citizenship but their families are not able to pay the fees, which currently stand at £1,012. Often this means several children sharing a room with their parent(s), and not having access to cooking or washing facilities.

CW is originally from Nigeria — she has three children, two of whom are entitled to British Citizenship. She fled her abusive partner after he attacked one of her twins, but because she has no current immigration status, she cannot work, claim benefits or access hospital care. She and her three children are living in one room of a bed and breakfast. She is only able to use the kitchen at an allocated time, and the washing machine once a week. Unfortunately, the little boy still wets the bed at night, so this is very difficult to manage. The twins cannot access school lunches, and have very little money to spend on school uniforms, let alone luxuries. They have missed most of their schooling during the pandemic due to the fact that they have no internet access.

This family is, sadly, typical of our client group. Many of our children live with mothers fleeing domestic violence and with no recourse to public funds, leaving them destitute or at risk of returning to abusive relationships.

For single people there is not even this safety net, and many of them are sofa-surfing, sleeping on the streets, or in exploitative working situations.

We are currently focused on raising money for our hardship fund, which gives one-off grants to people for essential needs or to bridge a gap in support.

  • £45 pays for accommodation for a night before alternative support kicks in.
  • £30 covers food and other necessities such as nappies for a family of four over the weekend.
  • £30 for the train fare to London to get a new passport.
  • £40 – £70 to replace a passport.
  • £20 pays for a copy of a birth certificate.

Every penny that is donated to this fund will go straight to our clients to help them either meet their basic needs, or gain the necessary documentation to regularise their immigration status.

You can make a donation with your online pre-order or at the counter at our shop.

A Day in the Loaf

There is one week left to apply to join us here at Loaf! For those curious about what the job might entail, Nancy tells us what happened on her Thursday shift working in the shop.

I start my shift at 9am and, first things first, have a coffee. Today I had a lovely cold one that Phil had prepared in the bakery, early doors. It does get warm in here in the summer but caffeine is still a priority for me. Next I prep the shop area, making sure everything is clean and tidy and all the equipment and utensils we’ll need are ready. We have a few hours before we open to our customers — time to make lunches, prepare our filled croissants and get any pre-orders ready. Today we are serving mushroom and aubergine curry and a summer squash pizza. Yum! 

I’m also on hand to help the baker should they need it. When it’s so warm, sometimes all the doughs and pastries are ready at once and an extra pair of hands helps to keep everything in check. 

I pack away any deliveries which have arrived and check we have everything we will need for tomorrow either available or on order. I have a look at the email and social media to deal with any queries and post some pictures of today’s offerings from the bakery. Then I grab a bite to eat and a bit of a sit before it’s ‘go time’.

At 12 o’clock, we open the doors and usually have a good couple of hours of steady visits from our friendly customers. We are lucky to have lots of long-term customers who we have got to know over the years; it’s nice to see familiar as well as new faces when you’re working. By two o’clock the rush has died down. It’s now time to start cleaning and thinking about what needs doing for the next day, alongside serving customers. At this point in the day we also check in with each other, making a round of tea or, in this weather, reminding each other to drink water.

The rest of the day is taken up by prepping lunch and sweets for the next day, cleaning and doing hygiene admin tasks. I also add some products that need re-stocking to our order list and put a couple of points on the agenda for the next team meeting before it’s time to close the shop. I pack up a loaf of bread or two to take home – one of the perks of the job!