A knead to help: Students learn to bake bread, aid the hungry

Carla Dempsey

When it comes to doing good deeds in their community, students at the Freetown-Lakeville Middle School know how to rise to the occasion.

Last week, the middle-schoolers learned how to make whole grain bread from scratch and donated it to area food pantries.

The culinary lesson was part of the King Arthur Flour Life Skills Bread Baking Program, in which a baker from the Vermont company visits middle schools across the country teaching young people to make bread for a good cause.

Three seminars were held at the school on Wednesday morning, and Paula Gray, King Arthur Life Skills instructor, showed sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders everything they needed to know to create fresh, nicely browned loaves. Pointers included the proper way to open a yeast packet, how to mix and measure ingredients, how to tell if the dough is ready and the best technique for kneading it. The students received free bags of flour, yeast and a recipe to use at home that evening baking bread with their families.

They were instructed to bring one loaf back to school in the morning, and the bread was collected for distribution to the needy.

Gray was assisted on the school auditorium stage by eighth-graders Tori Dellarocco and Jzanev Leitao.

“Think of the satisfaction you get inside when you donate the bread to someone who really needs it,” Gray told the group.

Dellarocco, who mixed and measured with ease, said she liked the spirit of the program.

“It feels good to be doing this for a good cause,” she said.

Leitao, who also seemed to know her way around a kitchen, said her uncle went to culinary school, and she’s watched him bake on several occasions.

“I bake cakes, but this is the first time I’ve made bread,” she said. “I was a little nervous at first.”

Leitao, too, said she liked the idea of donating something she baked herself to people in need.

The loaves were donated to MainSpring House and Montello House in Brockton, Evelyn House in Stoughton, Conway House in Middleboro, the Women’s Center in Bradford and Sacred Heart Food Pantry in Middleboro.

Janice Murphy Linehan, family and consumer science teacher at Freetown-Lakeville Middle School, had great praise for the King Arthur program and was instrumental in having it come to the school.

“It’s wonderful,” Murphy Linehan said. “It’s quality time and a good time.”

She said the bread-baking assignment was a great way for students to spend time with family while gaining an awareness that it is possible to use their time and skills to help others in need.

“This is a great program. The kids learn a lot and take it home with them. The students have a lot of success, and when they get off the bus, the school lobby is full of fresh bread.”

King Arthur’s Gray, a teacher for more than 30 years who has been baking since she was a child, echoed Murphy Linehan’s sentiment.

“Everything about this program is great. Kids are learning a skill, it’s good for self-esteem, it’s nutritious and it smells good,” Gray said.

The King Arthur program was presented at the Freetown-Lakeville school in 2005, and it went so well that the company decided to film Wednesday’s seminars to make an instructional tape to distribute to other middle schools nationally.

“We had great success before. It’s a great school. The kids are well-behaved, and the setting is ideal,” said Tom Payne, director of King Arthur marketing, who was on hand to supervise the filming.

Indeed, the students were attentive throughout the entire seminar, and they certainly didn’t seem to mind the last portion of Gray’s talk: how to use the dough recipe to make pizza. (One tip she stressed to the students was to remember “five for five,” meaning to put a bare pizza shell in the oven for five minutes at 500 degrees and then take it out to add toppings and bake at a lower temperature.)

Dellarocco wasn’t about to choose pizza-baking over bread.

“I think I want to try both,” she smiled.

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