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Connecting people through baking

Sheaf Community Bakery are passionate about growing local, promoting food equality and baking great heritage breads. Jonny from SCB told us more about the non-profit venture started in Heeley.

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What is a community bakery?

For us, at Sheaf Community Bakery, it’s a successful business which also actively engages with and helps build the local community. We hope that this engagement will also form part of its success.

At the heart of the bakery’s reason for being is to help rebalance food inequality. Food politics has been in the news during Covid-19. More people are aware of how precarious some people's lives are and how this can translate to there not being enough food in far too many households, especially nutritious food and particularly for children.

We’ve a public life that proposes our society is built on values that would have us believe we are all born with an equal right to a positive and happy life. This in-built inequality shows the reality is far from this ideal.

This inequality can bring deep divisions, a sense of shame for those who suffer from it, and often blame (e.g ‘the unworthy poor’) from those who do not. So, perhaps rather grandly, the community bakery is a place to counter this.

Shefwheatexperiment

The word ​'companion' comes from 'panis', the Latin word for bread.

Originally, the word was used to describe someone with whom you shared a meal. So it runs deep in our cultural history, that a place where bread is made is a place for the community to gather.

When eventually we find premises for the bakery, we want it to be open and inclusive, a space where people feel welcomed and can learn about bread, baking and meet other people.

We also want to be involved with the community too and we’re working on building up a community feel about bread and baking.

Firstly, we’ve combined with others across Sheffield to start The Sheffield Wheat Experiment. Over 200 people have planted heritage wheat this autumn to harvest in summer 2021. We’ll come together and thresh it, winnow it, mill it and bake it together.

We wanted to find out more about our raw material – flour.

Looking to the future, we want to team up with a local grower, who’s growing quite a bit, and commit to buying their crop.

From a community perspective, the people taking part are really excited about this. They want to find out more and get an answer to the question: Where does bread come from?

The project also has a longer term question, a ten year thing, maybe more: Can we supply a small percentage of Sheffield's wheat needs from wheat grown locally? Can we complement the normal avenues of supply with locally-grown wheat?

Baking is one of a number of activities which have a therapeutic effect.

There have been some studies of projects involving people with mental health problems undertaking baking sessions with encouraging results. These range from building self-esteem and confidence to helping to reduce anxiety.

It seems certain that, coming out of this horrible year, there will be many people with increased mental ill-health who could benefit from this.

So although it’s not something we can run just now because of Covid-19, we’re exploring the idea of offering therapeutic baking sessions and working with a number of organisations to see how that might work for them.

And, finally, building on our work with a food bank since lockdown, the community bakery hopes to extend this to involve more people and make it more sustainable.

As the need increases again coming to Christmas, we can strengthen our local community and help make Sheffield stronger.

What will we be baking?

There are so many different types of bread and everyone has their favourites.

We want to be known for baking breads from a wide variety of heritages. We’ll be combining with a bakery that is based on Jewish heritage breads and we want to excel at traditional English baking, from wonderfully comforting cobs to warming pasties, luscious fruit pies to lip-smacking traditional cakes and tarts. Sheffield deserves to have a top bakery doing this at a price that we can all afford.

Learn more

Sheaf Community Bakery will be popping up at local markets, such as Dyson Place on Sharrow Vale Road. Keep updated via Facebook.

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