The Baking for Wellbeing programme launched in July 2021 following successful fundraising through the Aviva Community Fund in Q2 2021. It is run from the Shoebox Community Hub in the centre of Norwich who not only provide the venue but also practical support and guidance for the project. The money raised allowed us to buy equipment and ingredients, develop recipes, refit a very tired kitchen and train the course leads. Since then, we have had over 50 people of all ages and backgrounds bake with us, learn new skills and build their confidence not just in baking but for life in general.
For many it was the first group activity away from home they had done since Covid lockdown. This has helped them to get back to ‘normal’ and has contributed massively with our aim of combatting loneliness and isolation.
In 2022 we are continuing with the baking classes but we want to build on these and the learnings we have had already.
We are planning to expand into basic cooking classes for people that have had no experience of cooking or need to build their confidence to be able to cook for themselves and families. We will use money raised through Aviva Community Fund to purchase equipment to run cooking classes in addition to the baking classes we run already, develop healthy recipes to support different diets and develop a website to share recipes and cooking & baking tips to reach a wider audience.
We will be supporting people with how to plan meals, shop for ingredients and store food to avoid waste and save money as well as the skills to cook the meals.
We have talked to the baking participants about what it would take for them to continue baking independently. For some it was just the confidence to give it a go and they are already enjoying baking at home. For others it is the lack of the right equipment and the cost of purchasing this.
We will therefore be looking at how we can support people by collecting unwanted kitchen equipment, checking and cleaning it and passing it on for others to reuse. We will recycle any equipment that can’t be used.
The money raised will be used to support people like Alex. Here is what they had to say about the impact the classes have had on their life.
"It's helped me understand what food is going into my body and how to work with different ingredients. I've adapted what you've taught me to make diabetic food. Before the course I assumed I couldn't bake because of my dyspraxia, but with patience and confidence I know I can bake. I don't see things as a failure, I see it as a learning process when I bake and cook. I think I've been enjoying my food because of this."
We have been able to support other organisations and we will use funding to continue and expand on this.
We have supported Norwich Eco Hub, Better Together Norfolk, Norwich Together Alliance, Norfolk County Council Young Offenders team, NHS Wellbeing Service and the Norfolk Museums Service using food to bring people together and build communities.
Some of the participants on the course even spent a day baking so that Norwich Soup Movement could give festive treats to those in need at Christmas. We will do more of this as it great for people’s wellbeing having the opportunity to support others.
Having the money from the Aviva Community Fund allows us to be flexible and react quickly to meet different needs. We realised that a good way of helping participants on the baking courses build their confidence and make new connections was by giving them the opportunity to gift some of what they had baked to others. We bought clear packaging, ribbons and labels so they could create lovely gifts for friends, family and neighbours. It was great hearing the stories of how others had enjoyed what they had baked.
With the money we raise in 2022 we can look at other opportunities that arise. We have recently built links with an organisation supporting refugees and asylum seekers in Norfolk.
We will be looking at how we can support people displaced by what is happening in Ukraine. We are exploring how we can help by working with organisations and those they are supporting to bake and cook dishes from their culture to share and learn from each other.
Ukrainian Nalysnyky on pancake day.
One thing we learnt during the first 6 months of running baking for wellbeing was that the courses not only benefit the participants but also the volunteers that run them.
Baking for Wellbeing is not just for people who want to learn to cook and make new friends, there is also an opportunity for volunteers to:
- give hands-on support at the classes
- set up equipment beforehand
- share baking knowledge & experiences
- help to draw people out of themselves and connect with each other
- raise the participants confidence in baking
- learn recipes and suggest new ones
Lisa, a volunteer from Aviva, said “I wanted to get involved in a local community project. Something that would help me use the skills I’ve acquired from work but also something fun and people orientated. Baking for Wellbeing has given me this in bucketloads! I do anything from setting up equipment, talking to the participants and answering their baking questions, and helping to shape the future of Baking for Wellbeing with Mark, however my favourite part is understanding everyone’s individual needs and doing what I can to help them have a good experience. That and trying to get my hands on some of the bakes!!”
We have volunteers who either use their companies volunteering hours (Aviva’s is 21 hours a year) or give their personal time. It helps if you have a basic understanding of baking however this is not essential. Other skills can also prove useful - e.g. on one course we welcomed a Spanish speaking gentleman (he wanted to improve his English as well as his baking), so we reached out to our community to find a volunteer with a good grasp of Spanish to ensure the class had a positive experience.
One of our volunteers, Shaun, started on the first course and now helps out at classes and baking events.
“I have learnt that I CAN BAKE!! It has raised my confidence in cooking and life in general”.
Mark the founder of Baking for Wellbeing had the idea for it just over a year ago and has worked along with his family and other volunteers to get it up and running
“Volunteering has provided a real sense of purpose since leaving Aviva in August after 31 years. It has really helped with the transition from full time work and has given me a great sense of community”
We will need more volunteers as we expand and some of the money raised will cover training for volunteers on Food Safety and Hygiene and First Aid.
We look forward to sharing how we have used the money raised to make a big difference to people’s lives