Fourth graders in the Life Skills Bread Baking Program learn how to roll cinnamon rolls and twirl pizza dough. But in between sprinkles of flour, the students also learn about faith.
The Life Skills Bread Baking Program, a free after-school activity offered around the country, teaches children essential baking skills, along with knowledge about the importance of charity and the Corporal Works of Mercy, and the kind acts people can perform to help neighbors in need.
“Making the bread was fun and it felt great to do something for the poor and homeless.”
“Bread is a basic commodity and many kids have no idea where bread comes from, how it’s made or the effort that goes into it,” said Paula Gray, program manager and senior instructor. “Participating in program helps the children learn that multi-faceted idea. We are teaching kids a skill they can have for the rest of their lives.”
At each session, students from grades four through seven are given ingredients to make two loaves of bread at home—one for their family, and one to donate to a charity of their school’s choosing. Schools who have engaged in the program have donated to local soup kitchens, St. Vincent de Paul charities, homeless shelters, and more.
While folding pretzels, students learn about compassion, sharing, feeding the hungry, and taking care of their neighbors, said Sr. Judith Dugan, director of the CSJ Educational Network, whose schools have participated in the program.
“The children love baking bread,” Dugan said. “I wish you could have seen the joy on their faces, how they made the dough and were proud of what they had participated in.”
The Life Skills Baking Program began in 1992 in Norwich, VT, and has since stretched across the country to San Diego, reaching more than 190,000 students.
Here’s what the student bakers have to say:
“What I liked best about the bread-making experience was that the basic dough recipe could create different types of bread. I am not a successful baker, but I succeeded in creating a large braided loaf for St. Anthony’s; a batch of cinnamon rolls, and a demi-braid for my family.” —Eighth-grade student at Notre Dame des Victoires in San Francisco, CA
“I know what [the bread loaves] will mean to St. Anthony’s. I know what it will mean to their guests. [Helping the hungry] is not debatable; yet if we try, as a community, we can help.” —Eighth-grade student at Notre Dame des Victories, San Francisco, CA
“It was awesome to help our larger community.” —St. Finn Barr student in San Francisco, CA
“We actually got to make the bread with our own hands.” —St. Finn Barr student in San Francisco, CA
“Making the bread was fun and it felt great to do something for the poor and homeless.” —Fourth-grade student, Corpus Christi, Piedmont, CA.