At this time of year, a natural spotlight falls onto the issue of homelessness and there is an increased effort to provide food, warmth and shelter for Christmas Day. But homelessness in the UK is a year-round issue which is rising at an alarming rate and charities up and down the country are working hard to help find ways to get people off the streets. This week we speak to Rise Bakery, a social enterprise who are part of the training scheme programme offered by homelessness charity Providence Row. Providence Row work to tackle the root causes of homelessness and work with more than 1600 homeless and vulnerably housed people in East London. They offer an integrated service of crisis support, advice and learning and training programmes. We spoke to Jo Callender-Wood from Rise Bakery to learn more about how their training scheme operates.
What is the history of Rise Bakery, where did it all begin?
Rise began in 2016, due to an expressed interest from clients to learn how to bake. We started off baking bespoke cakes and brownies to sell to local cafes. Over the years we have refined our processes, broadened our business client base and focussed on perfecting and selling just our brownies, using the profits to fund the bakery training scheme.
How many trainees can take part in your scheme each year?
We run 4 training schemes a year, with a maximum of 5 trainees registered on a scheme at a time. So each year we train 20 trainees in the basics of baking.
What do trainees gain from taking part in your scheme?
By covering 10 different types and themes of baking during the scheme, trainees gain a basic breadth of knowledge in skills and methods of baking. In a relaxed and friendly bakery environment, trainees can gain confidence in themselves and their capabilities to learn and practice a new skill. On a more tangible level, every trainee receives a Baking Handbook, complete with information about the science behind how baking works, what to do if a bake doesn’t turn out as expected, a guide to kitchen health and hygiene, as well as copies of the lesson recipes so trainees can recreate them in their own time. During the bakery scheme, trainees also complete the Level 2 qualification in food hygiene and safety, which is often required when applying for a job within the catering industry. And most importantly, everyone takes their baked goods away with them!
Do many of your trainees go on to find full time employment in the catering industry?
Although the primary outcome of our scheme is to get someone into a job, it’s just as important for them to improve their well-being and decrease their dependency on substances.
Some of the people we work with have led very chaotic lives, living on the streets for several years, so the emphasis of our training scheme isn’t solely on securing employment. It’s also about supporting our trainees with their mental health, substance misuse and access to housing. Often our bakery trainees don’t or can’t immediately enter full time employment after completing the scheme, however many go on to complete our own Peer Support training, to support the Rise Bakery co-ordinator baking our brownies for Rise. Each cohort we organise a bakery trip, where everyone gets a behind-the-scenes tour of a professional bakery and can chat to the bakers about what it’s like to work there.
What other wider support is there for the trainees?
Rise bakery is part of and situated within Providence Row. Providence Row is a charity supporting vulnerable adults at risk of or experiencing homelessness. Our day centre offers comprehensive support for clients, including housing, drug and alcohol advice and support. We also run a Learning and Wellbeing timetable featuring activities such as Film and Art Club, English class, counselling and homeopathy. Each trainee who completes the Bakery scheme has a meeting with our enterprise and training co-ordinator to discuss the next steps they would like to take, whether that is in applying for a job (baking related or not), accessing other aspects of our services, or training to become a bakery Peer Support.
We also run a Catering training scheme, and a multi award winning Gardening scheme (we have a beautiful roof garden on top of our building!) so often bakery trainees take part in another scheme afterwards.
As well as selling your delicious chocolate brownies, do you bake anything else at Rise Bakery?
We only sell brownies at Rise Bakery. We produce 5 different flavours: white chocolate and raspberry, orange and coconut blondie, mocha, double chocolate and gluten free dark chocolate. We are currently developing recipes to expand our range, including a vegan option. During the 10-week Bakery training scheme, we bake a different item each week, based on the baking theme of the week. For example, we made Victoria sponge in the first week (a ‘classic’ bake) and a spiced pumpkin cake during Halloween, as a type of oil and vegetable based cake.
What does the future look like for Rise Bakery?
It’s a very exciting time for Rise at the moment. We are thrilled to have recently partnered with Interserve who provide catering services to central government. We hope this will elevate our profile and sales as time develops. Interserve are also helping us to build a brand-new purpose-built bakery on site, expected to be completed early next year. Watch this space for even more brownies being produced by our trainees, and more importantly even more trainees taking part in the schemes each year.
Where and how can we help support Rise Bakery?
The best, easiest, and most delicious (for you the customer!) way to support Rise Bakery is to buy brownies online at risebakery.london. Shouting about what we do and the delicious brownies we make to your friends, family (brownies are great additions to birthday and wedding celebrations) and colleagues and generally spreading the word is also a massive help in supporting Rise. In the New Year we have also been asked to have a regular presence at nearby Spitalfields market, so we’re always on the lookout for any companies looking to volunteer their time to sell our brownies (and our message) to the public.
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to us, we wish you all the best for 2020.