Patton students ‘bake’ up solution to feed the hungry

Seventh graders bake nearly 200 loaves of bread, after learning how thanks to King Arthur Flour

By Mike McGann, Editor,

Seventh grade student Jordan Fortunato works on bread dough under the wtchful eye of Paul Gray from the King Arthur Flour company, as fellow student chef Nico Khazana looks on.

EAST MARLBOROUGH — As the old proverb says: “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, feed him for life.”

Hundreds of Patton Middle School seventh graders put their own twist on that this past weekend by learning how to bake their own bread, and then donating nearly 200 loaves to the Chester County Food Bank, Monday.

It all started Friday morning when Paula Gray from King Arthur Flour,  America’s oldest flour company, came to the school to give a demonstration to students about how to make their own bread, a nearly one-hour cooking lesson. Gray, the program manager for the company’s Life Skills Bread Baking Program, gave virtually the entire seventh grade a detailed lesson, not just in baking, but the math and science behind the process.

“We’re able to use skills kids already have to help them learn new skills,” Gray said. “Baking is just science and math, really.”

But it was more than a lesson. Each student was given a package to take home containing almost everything they’d need to bake their own bread — two loaves, actually. Or, one loaf, and something more fun, like pretzels or pizza. But the one loaf of bread was expected to come back to school Monday morning to be collected to help feed the hungry in Chester County with the Parkesburg Mobile Food Bank.

With the assistance of seventh grade students Nico Khazana and Jordan Fotunato, went step-by-step through process of creating dough — explaining the process of yeast interacting with sugar and the various techniques needed to make a good loaf of bread.

King Arthur Flour provided almost everything students needed to bake their own bread this past weekend — and they did. Nearly 200 loaves of bread showed up in school Monday morning, intended for the Chester County Food Bank.

Phoebe Kitson-Davis, Program Manager for the Food Bank, was also there, thanking the students in advance for their work — and explained how the bread would be distributed and why it was needed. She asked eight students to stand near the front of the auditorium and then asked all but one to sit down.

“One of eight people in Chester County misses a meal every day because they can’t afford it,” she said. She explained the mission of the of the Food Bank to feed those who would otherwise go hungry, an effort supported by those who donate food. She noted that the loaves would be specially marked, so that those coming to get food would have the option of taking the student-baked bread.

Gray, using a projection screen to show what was going on, showed the students the time-tested method for producing bread, including no small number of helpful tips on how to make better bread.

King Arthur — a company owned by its employees and one of the nation’s first B Corporations, a new kind of corporate designation for companies dedicated to using their business to help solve social and environmental problems in the community (shoe-maker Dankso is the best-know Chester County B Corp.) — provided a complete bread baking kit for each student, including two kinds of flour, a plastic kneeding edge, yeast, a pre-labelled bag for the bread and a cookbook. Students only needed a little of bit of cooking oil, some salt, a pan and an oven to make their own bread. And, clearly, they did make their own bread.

The visit was coordinated by Family and Consumer Science teachers Betsy Ballard and Kim Hisler. Ballard said she was very excited to see how many students and their families had decided to participate, with just short of 200 loaves of bread making the trip into school Monday.

“It made my week,” she said.

Gray came to Chester County from the company’s Norwich, Vt. headquarters, and did three presentations in the West Chester Area School District before wrapping up the week at Patton. She’s been about 200 schools nationwide in the last year with the dual mission of teaching students ranging from fourth to seventh grade. For more information on Kind Arthur Flour, which has been in continual operation since 1790, you can visit their Website.

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