Food & Drink

Hungry for change: Putney Feel Good Bakery serves second chance to former gang members

Former gang members and young people caught up in crime are turning their lives around by working in Putney’s Feel Good Bakery.

Founded by Andy Smith in 2000, the bakery is part of Regenerate, a Christian faith-based charity that seeks to transform the lives of young people on the Alton Estate — one of the largest housing estates in Britain.

Based at the former Ashburton Youth Centre, the bakery supports, trains and employs young people giving them life skills to enhance their futures.

“We wanted to set up a social enterprise where we can create jobs for young adults, work with them to identify their goals and dreams and help them get there,” Andy said.

“Our aim here is to get scores of kids through the scheme, get them on their feet, into careers and onto the world-changing stuff they want to do with their lives.”

The bakery not only works with young people in the community but profits help to fund free meal programmes across the world.

Every sandwich sold provides a free meal for children in Kenya, South Africa, Zambia and Romania, where the organisation works with several charities to combat extreme poverty.

A chance meeting in a pub led to Janine Leacy, 30, being offered a part-time job when the bakery first opened.

Over the past year she has steadily moved through the ranks and has recently been promoted to kitchen supervisor.

She explained that her job with the company is never one-dimensional and has given her significant personal development and support.

This has included the opportunity to organise a Regenerate festival as well as gaining qualification in food hygiene.

She said: “I feel like I’ve got a more diverse view and much more ambition. I feel like anything is possible because I’ve witnessed this programme grow from strength to strength.”

Janine is thankful to Andy Smith and Regenerate for what they have done for the Putney community.

When Andy came to Putney 20 years ago he found an area rife with crime and drugs, where children were riding stolen mopeds around an estate littered with burnt out cars.

Now thanks to The Feel Good Bakery and other Regenerate projects, including the Juice Bar, football clubs and The Studio, young people have the freedom to do whatever they want with their lives.

Regenerate receives funding through individual donors, Churches and Trusts, as well as companies such as Children in Need, the Jack Petchy foundation and the Church Urban Fund.

Founder of the Big Issue, John Bird MBE, is patron of the bakery.

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