Start your own Real Bread network

Is it time for you to take action in your country and how can we help you? 

CC0 - no rights reserved. Via Pixabay

CC0 - no rights reserved. Via Pixabay

The Real Bread Campaign is run by the UK food and farming charity Sustain. Since our launch in 2008, we’ve gained supporters and other friends around the globe. 

It’s now time for us to accept our limitations and that the focus of our work is in the UK. While we continue to welcome everyone to join our international network, and can help to spread information and inspiration worldwide, our small charity doesn’t have the capacity to run national projects from afar. 

Local action 

The international passion for Real Bread, and shared dismay at much of what is marketed as ‘bread’, was highlighted to us most recently by more than 80 Campaign ambassador applications we received from people in around 20 countries. We also see our annual Real Bread Week and Sourdough September initiatives generate international media coverage and social media posts from many more countries each year.  

We’ve long understood that the people best placed to identify problems and appropriate solutions in a country or region, then build a network and rally local support for the cause to take action, aren’t people in a country far away. They are the people living through those issues in that place; knowing its histories, cultures, languages and politics; building networks and collectively deciding the most appropriate action to take. 

The Real Bread Campaign’s role 

We’re now looking at what we might be able to do to help inform and inspire people outside the UK to set up their own national, regional or more local Real Bread campaigns/projects/groups to address the specific challenges they face. 

This might involve us:  

  • Sharing knowledge and advice built up from more than 12 years of running the Real Bread Campaign in the UK. 
  • Asking people we know in a country if they would like to be put in touch with the prospective organiser(s) of a new, national Real Bread network/project.  

Our role might also include facilitating conversations between would-be founders/leaders of national/regional Real Bread campaigns/projects/groups, with those in other countries. 

The beginnings of the Real Bread Campaign 

As a starting point, this background information might be of use, or at least interest, to people setting up Real Bread networks. 

Inspired by the work of the Real Bread Campaign’s co-founder, and Bread Matters author, Andrew Whitley, the way that the charity Sustain started to build our network included setting up a website to present our beliefs, aims and plans. We also created the Real Bread Map to help bakers list, and shoppers to find, places to buy additive-free loaves. This now also includes baking classes and places to buy equipment and flour from independent mills. We also set up a mailing list with an open invitation for everyone to sign up for free email updates from us. 

We then started contacting professional bakers, millers, farmers, food campaigners/activists and other people who we thought might share our interests, aims and beliefs. We invited them to meetings to discuss, and help us decide, the key issues that needed addressing, what action to take, and to start finding examples of good practice we could help to share. 

Real Bread Campaign mission   

This is the bigger picture upon which our annual work plan is based.  

We define Real Bread as made without additives. From this simple, universally-accessible starting point, we work to find and share ways of making bread better for us, better for our communities and better for the planet. We work towards a future in which everyone has the chance to choose Real Bread. 

A theory of change

Problems

  • The majority of what is sold as ‘bread’ in the UK, and the system from which it comes, is not as good for people, communities or the environment as it could and should be.  
  • Inadequate labelling, marketing legislation and food education means that many people are unaware that not all loaves are created equal.  
  • Access to Real Bread is limited in many places by lack of supply.  
  • Some people face a financial barrier to buying Real Bread.  
  • Apparent lack of diversity and inclusion in the artisan baking sector.  

Solutions / activity

  • Raising awareness of what’s wrong and what can be done to improve the situation.  
  • Securing full and transparent ingredient labelling of all loaves; and legal definitions of bread and related marketing terms.  
  • Promoting the proven community wealth building, health (mental and physical), environmental and other benefits of non-commodity production and supply.  
  • Promoting Real Bread enterprises.  
  • Research into making grain, flour and bread more nutritious; and reducing - or avoiding - negative health impacts experienced by some.  
  • Providing skills, knowledge and encouragement to people starting and growing Real Bread enterprises.  
  • Real Bread skills and knowledge taught in schools and made available more widely.  
  • Finding and promoting ways of improving financial access without undermining nutrition or other product qualities, or good food jobs.  
  • Finding and promoting ways to reduce the negative, and increase the positive, environmental impact of production from seed to sandwich.  

Results

  • More people are in a position to make better-informed food buying choices.  
  • The health and nutritional values of bread are maximized.   
  • The negative environmental impact of bread is minimized.  
  • More people have access to Real Bread:  
  • Independent, locally-owned Real Bread bakeries are able to thrive at the hearts of many more communities.  
  • People have the knowledge, skills and incentive to bake their own.  
  • More people are able to afford Real Bread.  

Our vision  

In the future we are working with others to help create: 

  • There will be a legal definition of bread, a key criterion of which will be: made without additives.  
  • To help create a more level playing field on which small businesses can survive and thrive, and shoppers can make better-informed buying choices, there will also be legal definitions of loaf marketing terms: These will include fresh/freshly-baked, wholegrain, artisan, craft, sourdough and heritage. A bakery will be legally defined as a place where bread is made from scratch, not a loaf-tanning salon.  
  • A full declaration of all ingredients and additives on the label or point of sale display will be mandatory for every loaf, bun, wrap, sandwich etc. including those sold loose / unwrapped. 
  • The majority of products made and sold will be bread, rather than additive-laden substitutes.  
  • Much of this bread will be made by independent bakeries that sustain more jobs per loaf, keep money circulating in local economies and help to keep their high streets alive.  
  • Being a Real Bread baker will be a fulfilling and aspirational career choice, available to people of every heritage and background.  
  • Bakeries and the baking industry as a whole will be diverse and inclusive. Ownership, profit, power and opportunity will be distributed more equitably.   
  • There will be a (micro)bakery or other place to buy Real Bread within walking or cycling distance of the majority of people.  
  • The owners and bakers of most of these neighbourhood bakeries will be members of local grain webs that also include farmers, millers and the people who buy their products.  
  • Many bakeries will be run as social or community enterprises.  
  • All bread will be free of pesticides and other agrochemicals because all grain, particularly wheat, will be grown by biodynamic, certified organic or other low-to-no-input farming,  
  • Micronutritional values and flavour of grain will be valued as much as yield and protein levels.  
  • Everybody will have the Real Bread knowledge and skills to make their own as it will be taught in all schools from primary age as part of ongoing food education, and available to the generations of adults who missed out on this when growing up.  
  • Everyone will be able to afford fairly-priced Real Bread and, in the meantime, bakeries will run initiatives to make bread accessible to people on low or no income.  
  • Therapeutic bread making, delivered by community-based businesses and initiatives, will be available on prescription.  
  • The carbon footprint of the seed to sandwich chain (for both bread and industrial loaf products) will be net zero .  
  • No bakery will frequently have surplus bread to be redistributed or generate avoidable food waste at all.  

Network 

We consider our wider network to be our friends. They include people signed up to our free mailing list, people who have added their details to the Real Bread Map and people who follow/like us on social media. Within this are our supporters, the people who help to fund our charity’s work by making an annual payment of between £22.50 and £110 a year. 

Money matters 

Initially, the Real Bread Campaign was run by volunteers, supported by members of Sustain’s staff. As a charity, Sustain was soon able to secure a grant to employ a dedicated, full-time member of staff for the first five years. Annual payments from our supporters, plus donations and income from events, book/publication sales and other gifts currently contribute to the salary of a part-time member of staff, plus some other costs. The plan remains that we will eventually generate enough income to employ at least one full-time member of staff, plus all of our other costs. 

Volunteers and inclusion 

With this very limited budget, one key to our success has been people willing and able to contribute their skills, time and knowledge on a voluntary basis. We know, however, that many people want, need and deserve payment. Our reliance on volunteers limits some people’s ability to participate and, therefore, means that our work and network is not as diverse, equitable and inclusive as it should be. We are looking at ways to improve this. 

Communication 

In addition to our free enewsletter, and our supporters’ magazine True Loaf, our main method of communication is via social media platforms. Originally Twitter was the most useful but we have found interaction has dropped and that people in our network are now more active on Instagram. We also run a Facebook account. 

We also dedicate time to public / media relations (PR). We run activities that are not only in line with our aims but also have PR potential; building relationships with key people in relevant media outlets then helps to ensure that these get featured. Encouraging professional baker supporters to get involved in these activities and do their own PR work locally helps them get publicity for their own enterprises, Real Bread (and issues/questions surrounding the industrial stuff) in general and the Campaign as a whole. 

Progress 

Here’s a potted timeline of the first 10 years of the Real Bread Campaign

Real Bread Ireland 

An organisation that took its original inspiration from the Real Bread Campaign is Real Bread Ireland, which is run according to a different model. Rather than being part of a charity, this is a standalone network that is run by its members, all of whom are either professional bakers, bakery owners, millers, bakery teachers or otherwise have a Real Bread related business interest. The organisation promotes Real Bread and bakeries and facilitates peer-to-peer connections and support between its members.

What else? 

One last thought: Is there already an organisation / network in your part of the world doing what you think needs to be done already? 

If there are other things that you would find useful in setting up your own Real Bread national/regional initiative/project/campaign/network, please drop me a line and I’ll see what we might be able to help you.


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