Baking a Difference started last year when L4A received a small amount of funding from Awards for All to trial it in three places, Wyggeston Hospital, Harley Grange and Scraptoft Court.
“And it was absolutely fantastic,” says Fiona. “The principle is that through creative bread making sessions it brings people together. It sparks conversations, it keeps hands and minds busy, it offers physical activity and fun. It has something for everybody. People have a choice to be involved however much they wish, whether it’s in helping to make the bread from the start – or just eat it.
“We worked with a professional baker to offer group sessions, going through the process from the grain to the table. The baker, Michelle Stratford from Planet Leicester Bakers, would provide dough each week, and also look at a different part of the bread baking process. She even set up experiments, for example, to show what happens when fermentation creates gas, putting a balloon over a bottle to see it blow up.
“Bread baking appeals to many senses, from the smell to the touch and feel with kneading the dough and, of course, the taste when the bread is baked.
“It was really successful, enjoyed by everybody who engaged with it.”
Over the weeks interest grew. Fiona continues: “Some might have noticed sessions going on in the first week but not participated, in the second week they might have ‘come a little closer’ and enjoyed eating the bread and by the fourth week they were in the middle of it all!
“It got people talking about so many memories – the bread strikes, how their mothers used to make bread and the whole essence of family life really.
“Although for some conversation is impossible, there is a non-verbal element of bread baking where they can touch and feel, smell and taste. This means it is a very inclusive activity which engages people who could otherwise be left out.”
The £50,000 will help to widen the project to other care homes and sheltered housing in Leicester and Leicestershire and pay for the time and materials of the professional baker, as well as train and mentor volunteers from the community to offer Bread and Conversation sessions, so that the project has a sustainability and longevity.
“The idea will be to bring people into the homes and create ties with the community,” adds Fiona, “to create bonds of friendship and reduce any feelings of loneliness, isolation or boredom.
“We are so grateful for the support, that people appreciate and value what we do, and that we can continue to make a difference to so many older people’s lives.”
(This article is based on articles in the Leicester Mercury and The Daily Mirror on 10th May 2018.)