Freedom Bakery is a social enterprise artisan bakery in Glasgow. Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight caught up with Immy Feenan, communications intern, to find out more about their fantastic work.
For those who haven’t yet heard about Freedom Bakery, how would you sum up it up?
Freedom Bakery is a social enterprise aimed at reducing the re-offending rate in Scotland through employment opportunities. We rent the kitchen in Low Moss from the Scottish Prison Service and have two professional bakers who train a small team of people in the skills required to become an artisan baker. The people in custody train towards a baking qualification whilst also working to the businesses ever-growing wholesale order list. Not only do they get an education but also on the job experience.
It is important to say that we do not rely on the social aspect of our business in order to skimp on the quality of our bread as you know from tasting it on Saturday! But on a serious note, the bakery in Low Moss is intended to prepare its apprentices for working in a bakery on the outside and so they are held to a very high standard.
You exhibited at your first ever public event at Let’s Eat Glasgow recently – what was the public reaction to the bakery and what you’re trying to achieve?
The public reaction to the bakery was really, really positive. We’ve received lots of encouraging feedback before, but having people say it to our faces gave us such a boost. It was great because there was a huge amount of people at the event who had never heard of us, which meant that not only did we get the chance to change that but it also that people would decide to chat to us on the merit of our bread and pastries, and then learn about the social aspect second. To be totally honest there was one moment where I thought I was going to cry because the amount of positive responses was pretty overwhelming.
I was so proud to have sold out of everything we had. The Lennox loaf, which was developed by one of our apprentices (who was there on Saturday!) sold out first and people were so disappointed if they had said they were going to come back and buy one. If it made me feel heart warmed, I can’t imagine how it was for the apprentice that made it!
The atmosphere in general at Let’s Eat was lovely, everyone was so supportive of one another.
Tell us about how you make the bread, the range you produce and what makes it taste so good?!
So, we can’t really operate the way a normal bakery would because of timings, security and so on. Most bakeries (probably every other bakery) would have their deliveries done by 8am but we can’t work that way from Low Moss. So we tend to deliver as early in the afternoon as possible. It is usually between 2-3pm.
We have tried to keep a Scottish theme running through our range. We are enthusiastic about supporting local businesses, and keeping our carbon footprint as low as possible, whilst sourcing the tastiest ingredients. Our beremeal bannock, for example, is a wholemeal bread made from a grain farmed in Orkney. Admittedly, Orkney is not exactly down the road but we are lending our support to the continuation of the farming of beremeal, which may stop if people don’t continue to champion this. Although, that makes it sound completely altruistic – it also tastes fantastic and that plays a huge part.
I think our ingredients help make our breads taste so good. Our bread is made in line with The Real Bread Campaign’s rules. Basically it is about promoting natural ingredients. Plain real bread is only made with flour, water, yeast and salt. Any additional ingredients also have to be natural. Our flour is bought from Mungoswells in East Lothian and is also very natural.
Finally, we have a bunch of really talented bakers working very hard coming up with interesting recipes, and perfecting their skills.
What can the public do to support the bakery?
There are a few things the public can do to support us. Firstly, engaging with us on social media and spreading the word is important. We want to hear people’s opinions, whether that be good or bad, because otherwise how will we improve! Another thing is they can buy our products from one of our lovely wholesale customers. Naturally, financial contribution to the business is very important.
A huge support would be for anyone who is interested in employing one of our apprentices upon their release to get in touch. If anyone owns a café or bakery and wants to be involved then definitely get in touch to talk about logistics.
What are your ambitions over the next few years?
Well in the very near future we will be opening a second bakery! This one, Freedom 2, will not be based inside a prison. There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, it will enable us to expand our business by trading to normal bakery hours, in a bigger kitchen. Secondly, it will mean that we can offer jobs to our apprentices, smoothing the transition period between inside and outside through consistency. We can offer jobs to people with convictions from elsewhere. The original bakery inside Low Moss will change its focus slightly to be more concentrated on training, however it will supply the visitor’s centre inside Low Moss so there will still be the pressure to complete orders.
We don’t want to walk before we can run so who knows after this – but we are confident that the model is sound. Maybe one day there will be a Freedom Bakery in every prison?
For further information, visit www.freedombakery.org and follow on @freedom_bakery