Too much dough.

So here’s a nice thing. It’s not complex. It doesn’t cost anyone anything extra. And it makes a difference.

I’ve just got back from my near-daily/nightly run. It takes me about 15 minutes and it involves me, a local bakery and The Winch. It all started when the bakery dropped us a line. They had bread, and lots of it. The problem is, they had too much.

I don’t know what the overheads are on bread production. Or rather, on baking. I suppose that the ingredients are so cheap that it makes more sense to overproduce than to risk running out of bread and, subsequently, lose customers who were irate that last time they stopped off on their way home for a nice loaf, there were none to be had. I’m not a baker and not a businessman (at least not in this context). But that’s what I’m guessing.

Bread. Or change, depending on how you look at it.

Either way, what it means is that every evening at our local bakery, there is anything between one and three black refuse sacks worth of bread left over at closing time. Think about how much bread that is. We’re talking about fresh, healthy, delicious stuff. It’s baked onsite, every single day. We’re happy to help, of course. We take it off them just before they shut up shop. Brown bread, white bread, baguettes, challahs. Croissants, pains au chocolat, apple puffs. Bagels, sandwiches, rolls.

The children and young people we work with are the beneficiaries. They are pretty hungry people a lot of the time. And it’s not every day you get bread of this quality. Free. Fresh. We do our bit, suffice to say. Check the ingredients, do the health and safety piece. We’re talking about food which aside from being only hours old is sold in the same shift if not donated to us. And tragically, this one bakery gives the slightest of insights into the quite literally unimaginable amount of waste which happens everyday across the borough, or the city, or the country. Wasted food and wasted change. I can’t begin to imagine.

But it’s so easy for it to make a difference, for it not to be wasted. During the summer, we gave all of our children fantastic breakfasts. Each evening, it gets shared out in sessions among young people. Food is a pretty powerful thing. Research shows that a full belly makes all the difference to concentration and learning at school, and the quality of food itself plays a key role. In a conversation I had with Kids Company, they reported that two things massively reduced the problems their young people were experiencing: travelcards and meals. The terrific organisation Magic Breakfast has as its slogan, ‘fuel for learning’. Food is so simple, yet so central.

All it took was for the owner of a bakery to recognise that the waste he found so frustrating could add real value elsewhere, and to do something about it. It’s a travesty that so many businesses in this position see food wasted rather than given away. Tesco and Sainsbury’s are some of the worst culprits. Indeed Channel 4’s series on The People’s Supermarket gave plentiful evidence of the irresponsibility of both consumers’ and companies’ complicity in waste. Too often we hide behind excuses and shrugged shoulders and, whether through lack of imagination or lack of will, find a reason to to keep things as they are.

But I want to say thank you, to our local bakery. I know it’s simple, I know it’s free, but what you do really makes a difference. And it’s a reminder that, with just a little thought and effort, making a difference may be closer than you think.


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