SOCIAL IMPACT

The Good Loaf is a community bakery supplying freshly baked products to businesses across Northamptonshire on a wholesale basis, as well as operating three cafes serving the general public.

However, good bread is only half our story. As a social business, we also provide real employment opportunities for vulnerable local women so that they can break the cycle of poverty, unemployment or offending.

At the point of lockdown in March 2020 we were supporting approximately 250 ladies a year in Northampton and Kettering.
We did this by delivering the following services: 

Employability

This work program is 6 weeks long. Each week participants are required to attend 15 hours (per week) and on successful completion acquire a Level 1 AIM Award in Employability, a Level 1 AIM Award in Customer Service and a Level 2 Certificate in Food Safety.

Domestic Abuse

This group addresses abuse issues between intimate partners, peers and family members. It is made up of six reflective sessions lasting 3 hours each, which help victims identify what has happened, acknowledge their experiences and reflect on their achievements. It is a positive, trauma informed, recovery programme facilitated by professionals and volunteers who are survivors of domestic abuse. 

Wellbeing

This group improves mental health of vulnerable women by delivering 8 week wellbeing sessions with a particular focus on exercise, mindfulness and volunteering which improve resilience and emotional stability through finding direction, acceptance and meaning in ones journey (new program). 

Volunteering

Opportunities available in our three community cafes which are open to the general public and in our outside catering department. Opportunities are available 7 days a week. The opportunities increase community cohesion, a sense of belonging, routine and structure and provide tangible work experience which all have a positive effect on health and wellbeing. 

Employment

Our paid work force is made up of professionals, women who have completed our program and young people who are wanting to gain experience to complement their studies. Each group represents 1/3 of our work force. Our team is made up of 30 members of staff. 

Apprenticeships

All women who have completed our work program have the opportunity to do a 12-month hospitality apprenticeship giving them a level 2 qualification. There is entry criteria and an assessment process for this project (new program).

Out of Court Disposal Scheme

This scheme is delivered on behalf The Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police to divert women from the criminal justice system and to help them address their problem(s) that have contributed to their offending. The aim of this scheme is to prevent negative impacts of the criminal justice system on women, dependent children, their families and the community.

COVID-19

On the 23rd of March 2020 we were instructed to close all our cafes and to terminate any support services immediately. 

Lockdown was absolutely devastating for our staff and service users. I (Suzy Van Rooyen, Chief Executive) went into Tesco and saw that the shelves were literally empty and there wasn’t a loaf of bread to be seen. I quickly thought that although the cafes needed to be shut, we could still bake bread and people could collect from the door so I put a message on social media to this effect.  

We were inundated with emails / phone calls for bread. It was quite unmanageable so that very night I (Suzy, Chief Exec) created an online shop where people could order / pay through the website and it would create a production list for the bakers and the rest of the team. We provided over 700 items a day to our local community over the coming weeks.  

Some off our staff needed to shield and went onto furlough but most continued to work through the crazy season of ‘lockdown 1’. Most staff were offered furlough but they chose to work, recognising that, for many, routine was extremely important after struggling with substance misuse and mental health issues in the past. 

We were floored by the amount of people who couldn’t come and get bread because they were told to shield so we started delivering in volunteer cars to these people. There were also many (mainly the older generation) who were desperate for supplies but didn’t have the internet to order, so we committed to drop off bread, milk, cheese, cakes and eggs every week for the 12 weeks of lockdown 1. At the time, we didn’t want to handle cash (due to covid) so provided the goods free of charge and suggested (when asked) that they make a donation at some point if they wanted to. A few weeks into this project, The Community Foundation awarded us a grant to help financially.

All click n collect and deliveries operated out of our Overstone Road Branch where the bakery is and our All Saints and Kettering Cafés were sadly, locked up and put into hibernation.  

Our wholesale department was turned on its head too with many of our trade customers shutting down (cafes and restaurants) but our business supplying farm shops, delis and foodbanks increased tenfold.

Our wholesale department was turned on its head too with many of our trade customers shutting down (cafes and restaurants) but our business supplying farm shops, delis and foodbanks increased tenfold.

Here is a snippet of the initial feedback we received:

UPDATES

April 2020

We continued to provide a delivery and collection service across Northampton 

Our cafes remained closed and so did our support services 

We improved our website and added local products such as Friars Farm Jam, Roastery Coffee, Farringtons Oil, Abbey Farm Eggs, Newlands Milk and Neneview Cheese to name a few. These local producers were also having a turbulent time as many of their big customers in the hospitality trade had also had to shut their doors. Not only did this benefit our customers who were struggling for supplies but it supported local producers too.

We were working extremely hard as a team and it did not go without recognition.

 In the first fortnight of lockdown, we delivered 6324 products to local residents. Some products were like absolute gold dust such as flour and eggs but we were able to fulfill every order that came in, we never once had to turn a customer away. 

On the 9th of April (Easter), we delivered 1200 eggs and 2454 bread rolls as well as many, many, other products! 

This was all very new for our staff team but they embraced the transition from being café assistants working sensible hours to become pickers, packers and delivery drivers, starting before the crack of dawn, day in, day out. 

We also recruited volunteers to help. They were generally people on furlough who had vans such as builders, plumbers, painters and even the owner of an ironing business.   

We had an unfortunate incident in April where a mentally unwell person accessed our building and threaten staff. We had to evacuate leaving him in there and wait for emergency response. It was really quite scary for the team (all ladies) but the police and EMAS were fabulous and diverted him to the help he needed.

May 2020

We continued to provide a delivery and collection service across Northampton. 

Our cafes remained closed and so did our support services. 

As home delivery slots from supermarkets became more available, our demand decreased significantly. Some customers stayed loyal to supporting local and supporting us but unfortunately many fell away. This was another adjustment we needed to make and further staff were furloughed. 

We started offering fruit & veg boxes where customers could pick n mix what they wanted, as we hadn’t seen this available locally. We teamed up with Whites Nursery to do this and it proved popular alongside the other local products we were supplying. 

June 2020

We continued to provide a delivery and collection service across Northampton. 

We were actually allowed to re-open cafes but after careful consideration, we didn’t. Our Overstone Road Branch had no safe way of getting in and out with social distancing due to the very narrow stairway. 

Our All Saints Branch and Kettering Branch were much too small for any form of social distancing for staff or customers. They were also in locations, which had everything around them closed or operating with minimal service (i.e. church and crematorium) so the usual customer base was not active.

In order to open the cafes we would also need to operate with reservations only, capture personal details for track and trace manually (GDPR nightmare) and invest in costly Perspex screens etc. It all seemed a bit much when the future was uncertain and we were told that local lockdowns could happen again anyway.  

The good news was that we were able to re-start up limited support services for vulnerable women in a COVID secure environment which we embraced wholeheartedly in Northampton and Kettering. 

July 2020

The government announce the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ Scheme which they were launching for August.

After ‘more’ careful consideration and the support of our landlord at Overstone Road we planned to refurbish a fire exit to allow a one-way system in and out of the building which would enable us to operate securely. We also planned a reservation and pre order system only, capturing track and trace details through our website rather than manually to simplify GDPR requirements. We planned to only open a few days a week to monitor how it went with yet another new way of working which included table service. The reservation system enabled sensible breaks between customers to ensure thorough cleaning. We also had to modify our toilet facilities. 

All couches and toys were removed but the biggest adjustment was opening the café with the delivery / click n collect departments operating in the same space which had never happened before.

We concluded that we could still not open All Saints & Kettering Cafes, as the social distancing regulations just did not allow for it.  

We did restart our support services for vulnerable women through the use of 1-1 video calling: this was not how we had engaged before COVID but we felt it was a start and better than no engagement. 

 

August 2020

We opened Overstone Road Café 3 days a week (Wednesday, Thursday and Friday) and continued to provide deliveries and click n collect services throughout the month.

Business ticked over at a steady pace and we continued to run our support services via WhatsApp / Zoom.  

Social distancing regulations still did not allow our small cafes at All Saints Church or in Kettering to open.

September 2020

Things pretty much operated as they had in August. Our café was open Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays.

We continued to run our support services via WhatsApp / Zoom on a 1-1 basis. 

October 2020

We decided to open the café on Saturdays again which was well received by the local community (we continued with deliveries and click n collect). 

We started running actual wellbeing groups which incorporated baking and a theme each week. We were able to do this with social distancing on the days our café was closed as we could use the whole area (Mondays & Tuesdays). 

We provided employability and domestic abuse services on a 1-1 basis (either social distanced on site or over WhatsApp / Zoom).

Most staff had returned to work even if only part time. The footfall in the cafe (Overstone Road) was nowhere near what we had seen pre-Covid but business was steady and customers reported feeling safe. 

We continued to use a one-way system in the building, one family at a time in the toilets, table service, the NHS track & trace system and the recommended sanitising etc. We ensured that social distancing was adhered to by staff and customers and that everyone used face masks indoors. 

October also saw a national campaign for free school meals to be provided during the half term. Many local organisations stepped up and we were proud to support them with bread and rolls. Over the week we donated enough bread to make 1172 sandwiches for children during the week.

November 2020

A second national lockdown was announced, and we had to shut our café again and put staff back on to furlough. We continued with click n collet / deliveries and we also did takeaways during this time. 

Unfortunately, our click n collect / deliveries did not see an increase as they had in the first lock down and business was pretty quiet. Our trade customers (cafes & restaurants) also shut down therefore cancelling their orders with us and for the first time all staff were put on flexi-furlough, even the bakers. 

We stopped doing the baking element of our wellbeing course (for COVID secure reasons) and just did the ‘classroom’ work where we discussed a wellbeing topic each week and the participants went away with small goals to work on. 

December 2020

We were well supported by the local community over Christmas with some seasonal lines being added to our offer (such as Christmas Hampers & mince pies) 

On the 9th of December, our van had an unfortunate accident and we immediately started a fundraising campaign with customers. They donated £2700 though our website which has been gratefully received: 

 Our van was involved in a 4 car pileup on the Bedford Road… we were no 3 in line so there is significant damage to the front, the side and the back!

He (the van) has worked his socks off since opening over 5 years ago but especially during the COVID pandemic (you may have heard of it!) so we can’t see him surviving this little altercation.

We deliver wholesale bread to the hospital, university, county council and many farm shops, deli’s, cafes and restaurants so really need to be back on our feet / wheels ASAP.

 Please consider donating so we can retire our little champ and get an upgrade as soon as possible. 

There is a ‘van campaign’ tab in our online shop. 

We are insured you will be glad to know but don’t envisage the pay out being very significant as he really was a bit old & tired.

The backbone of our business is our wholesale trade which enables us to do what we do in the community, supporting vulnerable women back into work.

Please and thank you for reading 🙏🏻 and thank you for your support during 2020. 

PS – our driver Gerry is fine and dandy 👌

 We received an amazing gesture from Barry at PRP UK who offered to lend us their van for the festive season. 

We were blown away and gratefully took up their offer. This was a huge relief which allowed us time to do some fundraising and source the best replacement possible. 

www.prp.uk.com (an engineering and surveying consultancy who are also very nice people 😊) 

We had a good December all in all and shut down the ovens and turned out the lights at the end of the day on the 24th for our Christmas shut down. A quiet Christmas to be had but grateful that we had survived the year and our team had all remained well. 

January 2020

We decided to offer free delivery for the month as we anticipated a slow season due to people being typically more health aware and budget conscious during January. We did not envisage the nation going into a third lockdown! 

We have seen a big uplift in business, delivering almost 100 parcels a day (96 was the highest!) so far this year. We aren’t sure if the increase in business is due to the lockdown or due to the fact that we are offering free delivery – we just know that we are busy (especially with afternoon teas and packed lunches!) and are riding the wave the best we can. One thing that the last year has taught is that you have to take each day as it comes – who knows what February will bring!?! \

As we reflect on the last year of COVID there have been many ups and downs: 

Positive

  • New way of working introducing click n collect / deliveries 
  • New customers (largely shielding / vulnerable taking advantage of our deliveries) 
  • Development of our wellbeing groups 
  • Some improved engagement of with our support services using Zoom / WhatsApp 
  • Being able to make use of the furlough scheme to keep 2/3’s of our staff employed. Even so, we haven’t been able to operate two of our cafes throughout the pandemic. 
  • Still able to support 42 women with mental health, domestic abuse and employment support. 
  • Still being able to provide 15 volunteer opportunities within our click n collect / delivery department although cafes have been closed. 

Negative 

  • Inability to open All Saints Café since 23rd March 2020 due to national restrictions and inadequate space for social distancing, incurring significant ongoing financial overheads.
  • Inability to open Kettering Café since 23rd March 2020 due to national restrictions and inadequate space for social distancing, incurring significant ongoing financial overheads.
  • Sporadic operation of Overstone Café between lockdowns (also less footfall and facilities such as meeting spaces, soft furnishings and toy corner) 
  • Support services not able to operate and very little opportunity for volunteering / work placements with the cafes closed. 
  • Little opportunity for volunteering / work placements with no private event bookings (weddings, funerals, birthdays, training events etc) 
  • Lack of ‘open community’ through drop in services and cafes being open. Engagement has had to be carefully planned and can feel more formal.