Big Issue Vendor

The Greatest British Bake Off: Social enterprises dishing up food for good

The Great British Bake Off has made a welcome return – and across the country social enterprises are creating good food that serves good causes

It’s been a tense 12 months since The Great British Bake Off ended its tenure on the BBC. Due to an absence of royal events (weddings, babies, jubilees etc.) and Big Ben losing its chimes for the foreseeable future, the nation has been struggling to find something to make us feel truly, discernibly British.

So welcome back GBBO! It may have migrated to Channel 4 but the ingredients are all present and correct. While TV’s Bake Off may be great, here are some really great ways people are using food for good. Across the country, social enterprises are rising up to the challenge, whipping up creative ways to use baking to do good. This is as guilt-free a way to stuff your face as is possible…

Rise Bakery

Rise Bakery

People who have experienced homelessness become trainee bakers at Rise Bakery, where they spend 10 weeks learning a wide range of techniques. The social enterprise, part of Providence Row, a charity helping homeless people in east London to build confidence and skills, aims to increase employability – in or out of the food industry. Graduates from the team fulfill orders for
Rise Bakery’s customers. Try the delicious white chocolate and raspberry brownies.

Blackburne House

We have muffin bad to say about Blackburne House – the 18th-century listed building is both a beautiful venue and a leading social enterprise. As well as being the setting for glamorous weddings, Blackburne House, which received £80,000 of investment from Big Issue Invest, has been committed to making life better for the women of Liverpool for the past 25 years. It provides education, training and enterprise opportunities in order to allow individuals and organisations to have a positive impact on the local economy. Its bistro-style cafe has risen to the task of providing fantastic food and service with local ingredients and also features exhibitions by local female artists.

Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency

Greenwich Co-Operative Development Agency

The Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency has been helping those in knead in south-east London, with its commitment to healthy and sustainable eating. The GCDA, who received £40,000 of investment from Big Issue Invest, has been mixing up the foodie scene by developing co-op style enterprises, delivering training programmes and creating community hubs that include state-of-the-tart production and training kitchens. At the heart of all its work is its commitment to improving health, enterprise and the environment as well as the desire to make life a little sweeter.

Cafe Van Gogh

A cafe in Brixton has mixed in its love of fresh, vegan food with a commitment to helping end food poverty in the local area. The social enterprise, which received £20,000 of investment from Big Issue Invest, reinvests its profits back into projects that spoon out education to local children – inviting them to learn about food nutrition and taking ownership of the green spaces within their school grounds. Cafe Van Gogh has also partnered with neighbouring special needs schools, giving pupils a flavour of working life by offering them front-of-house roles to help build skills and confidence. This summer, the cafe itself went 100 per cent vegan – a big whisk, for sure, but the reviews have been glowing.


The Big Issue vendors buy the magazines for £1.50 and sell them for £3. They are working and need your custom.

Freedom Bakery

An innovative baking business in Glasgow is going against the grain by baking the bread for its customers inside Low Moss prison. Freedom Bakery uses prisoners to produce their artisan bread and pastries – butter it’s not all bad for these inmates. The social enterprise hopes that the bakery will help them earn some dough on the outside by providing them with valuable skills and so far, it’s been very successful.

Freedom Bakery

Lots of cafes and delis across Glasgow want a slice of the action and Freedom Bakery currently delivers to 15 locations around the city. There’s nothing floury about this project – everything is baked to incredible artisanal standard and the stable future it’s helping to provide for prisoners is just the icing on the cake.

The Real Junk Food Project

The Real Junk Food Project is cooking with a difference. Founded by chef Adam Smith in December 2013, TRJFP makes meals from the leftovers of shops and has grown from a single pay-as-you-feel cafe in Leeds to a truly global food revolution.

With a manifesto promising “to feed bellies, not bins”, the network now boasts 127 cafes – from Japan to the USA via Yorkshire – has fed 1.2 million people in need worldwide, and claims to have utilised 2,000 tonnes of food “waste” that would otherwise have ended up in landfill.

TRJFP has also partnered with schools to provide free meals for pupils with its Fuel for School project, and as a result of school summer holidays last year accidentally set up the UK’s first pay-as-you-feel waste supermarket. “We didn’t take into account the summer break, and all of a sudden we had a 7,000 square-foot warehouse in Leeds filling up every day with food,” Smith says. “We put out a call and people were travelling from all over. We’ve kept it going and have since set up similar projects in Sheffield and Burnley.”

The Real Junk Food Project has grown from a single pay-as-you-feel cafe in Leeds to a truly global food revolution

Recently, The Big Issue and more than 100 of our street paper colleagues from across the world had the privilege of experiencing the inspirational project first-hand when TRJFP catered a special dinner in Manchester as part of the International Network of Street Papers’ annual conference.

Held at the city’s refurbished Victoria Baths, delegates enjoyed a six-course meal made entirely from ingredients that would have otherwise been binned.


Fennel, pak choi and green bean salad with mixed nuts, mustard and lemon dressing
Moroccan rice salad with parsley and dried fruit
Vegetarian chilli with cheese, tortilla chips and guacamole
Fondant potatoes with wild mushroom aubergine ratatouille, onion, leek and carrot
Curried cauliflower and charred marrow with coconut
Fruit and yoghurt crumble with apple compote and mango puree

The Big Issue Shop

The Big Issue Shop is cooking up a storm of products that will help you on your way to becoming the next Star Baker, all with a social echo. The Wonderbag might look like a 1970s-style beanbag, but mix in the right ingredients and you’ll be guaranteed bags of flavour. This portable, non-electric slow cooker cooks food that has been brought to the boil for up to 12 hours, without the need for additional fuel.


Wonderbag have created the perfect recipe for sticky syrup pudding and while you get cracking on, know that with each purchase a bag is donated to a family in Africa, all because of your tasty treat!

This traditional British dessert is also eaten in South Africa – serve with ice cream or hot custard for the perfect pudding! Serves 6-8. Prep time: 15 mins. Cooking time: 30 mins. Wonderbag time: 2-3 hours.

Sticky Syrup pudding


11/2 cups flour
21/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt & 1 pinch
1/2 cup sugar – blend to make fine
2 large eggs, beaten
8 tbsp golden syrup
7 tbsp unsalted butter – frozen then grated
6 tbsp milk
16 inch square aluminium foil
16 inch square parchment paper
Butter, for greasing


  • Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large mixing bowl
  • Combine with butter using your fingertips
  • Slowly mix in the egg and milk to make a batter
  • Butter a 2-litre glass or ceramic bowl
  • Spoon in half the golden syrup then add the batter mixture
  • Place the parchment paper then foil on to the bowl and cover tightly
  • Place a flameproof trivet into the base of a large pot and place the bowl of pudding on top
  • Fill the pot with water so that it reaches halfway up the sides of the bowl
  • Bring to the boil over high heat for 30 minutes
  • Place the pot into your Wonderbag and seal for 2-3 hours until risen and springy to touch
  • Unwrap and invert on to a plate then drizzle with extra syrup
Big Issue mug and tea towel

If serious baking isn’t your style, you might want to opt instead for the hottest new trend: the mug cake. Whether you go for our Big Issue Mozza mug, or feel slightly more spiritual with the Dalai Lama, they’re easy to make. Just bung 30g of butter and 30g of chocolate in the microwave for 30-40 seconds. Beat until smooth then whisk in 1 egg, 2 tbsp of caster sugar, 11/2 tsps of vanilla extract, 41/2 tbsps of plain flour and 1/2 tsp of baking powder. Pop it back in the micro for another one minute and 20 seconds. Leave to cool for one minute before tucking in.

Always make sure your mug is microwave safe! To mop up any spills, pick up your Big Issue Activist Army tea towel.

All products are available now from The Big Issue Shop.

Greenwich Co-operative Development Agency image: Copyright Paul Dodds