Artisan bakery helps mental ill health recovery

Pic by Allan Boyce: Better Health Bakery teaches trainees to make, bake and sell  organic bread

Pic by Allan Boyce: Freshly baked products are sold & distributed from the premises

A mental health charity has opened an artisan bakery to help adults recovering from mental ill health.

The Better Health Bakery, in Hackney, east London, provides up to ten placements where trainees learn how to make, bake and sell a range of sour-dough bread to local shops, cafés and the public.

Ashwin Matthews, director of the Centre for Better Health which set-up the project six months ago, said the scheme is aimed at providing people recovering from mental ill health and stress with a relaxed environment to learn new skills that could help lead to paid work.

He said: “The building used to be a sheltered employment centre but we wanted to give people genuine training that could lead to further employment and our clients wanted to do something that was satisfying and gave a real sense of achievement.

“It’s been quite a tricky project so we just started with bread making, but now we make pastries and sandwiches too.”

Trainees get one-to-one training during three-month placements

Pic by Allan Boyce: Trainees get one-to-one training during three-month placements

Trainees learn how to make high-quality organic sour-dough bread from scratch in a professional environment, although those who don’t take to getting their hands covered in flour and dough can learn customer service skills at their in-house point-of-sale.

The bakery’s front counter tempts passers-by in with a range of fresh breads, cakes, pastries and coffee.

Robert Agren, head baker at BHB, said the trainees also learn barista skills, how to use the till and general customer service as well as health and safety, IT, numeracy and literacy.

Head Baker Robert Argun removes the fresh sour-dough from the oven

Pic by Allan Boyce: Head Baker Robert Argun produces the fruits of their labour

Matthews said: “For some people it raises their self esteem or improves their social skills while others have a genuine interest in bread making and go on to college.”

The bakery uses traditional methods and natural ingredients sourced locally where possible.

Trainees are referred by their care-coordinators and after a visit to the bakery successful applicants attend for one day a week for three months which can be extended for a further three following a review.

The aim is to make the bakery self-sustaining through product sales and a charge to trainees in receipt of Direct Payments, government funding for people in need of support, although only to those who could afford to pay.

Matthews said: “We have something that we are happy with at the moment, but we hope to grow the training project and create more placements.”

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