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Five Loaves - Then and Now

Meet Frances, our Marketing+Program Manager! Last year, she interned with Urban Avenues and wrote about her experience with Five Loaves, how it adapted during COVID, and her first training night.


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Finding creative ways to engage in your community can be challenging, but what’s even more challenging is finding a place to start. Luckily for me, I have the opportunity to participate in Five Loaves; when I started my internship with Urban Avenues, helping out with the Five Loaves venture was the thing I looked forward to most. I love creativity and I loved the way Urban Avenues used creativity to accomplish a greater good within Birmingham.


What exactly is Five Loaves and what are Training Nights?

Five Loaves is an Urban Avenues initiative that helps young individuals recognize the beauty in diversity and to use creativity as a means of unifying a divided city. This vision of unifying a divided city through creativity is brought to life through Training Nights where the students come together every three weeks to form a community and learn together. Before COVID, Training Nights would bring students together in a kitchen and the instruction would be led by a local chef. The students would learn useful culinary skills as well as important practical skills such as: teamwork, effective communication, time management, problem solving, etc.


As of today, Training Nights are held virtually over Zoom, and now students are given the opportunity to teach each other about the practical skills that are most relevant to their personal lives and sharpen their culinary skills by sharing and re-creating some of their favorite recipes.


Each Fall, the cohort is able to showcase their culinary and practical skills at events called “Pop-up Dinners.” Much like Training Nights, Pop-up Dinners are co-hosted with local chefs in Birmingham; only the students get a chance to fully coordinate the event. They plan everything from the venue, to what will be served, and even how much to charge attendees for each event. It’s usually a very exciting project for the children to participate in and it gives them a really big feeling of accomplishment once the event is done.


Why do I think Training Nights are important?

Training Nights are important for numerous reasons; to start it gives the cohort an opportunity to explore different areas of the city. When interviewing a few of the students, they said that one of the things they loved about Five Loaves was being exposed to different places in the city, and that they probably wouldn’t have even learned about those places in Birmingham if they hadn’t visited with Five Loaves. Another reason why Five Loaves is important is because it helps the youth learn practical skills that they will use throughout their lifetime. Lastly, Training Nights help to bridge gaps within our community. Just like any other city in America, Birmingham has its share of divides that keeps its citizens from fully appreciating each other’s differences and coming together to share those differences in order to create a better place for each person living in the city. Five Loaves participants come from different areas of the city, and are given the chance to meet different and new people, individuals outside of their normal community. This experience is valuable because it broadens the children’s perspective of the world and helps them to see the beauty within diversity; this perspective is something that they will carry with them throughout their life.


What are some highlights of my experience with Training Nights?

There is so much prep work that goes into planning for a Training Night and for me this has been one of the biggest highlights of my experience. I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking with the children that will host a Training Night and learning about the recipe they want to share. Shopping for the ingredients is fun because we get to deliver them to the children and seeing them is always fun for me. My absolute favorite part of prepping is recipe testing. We usually test the recipe for Training Night to see what techniques work the best when preparing the recipe and to also find any shortcuts in case the recipe is too long to cover in a Training Night; we are always left with really delicious snacks because of this.


In general, the concept of a Training Night is really amazing to me and it’s what the city of Birmingham stands in need of; a creative way to unify its different communities. I look forward to creating more memories within this program and seeing where the children of Five Loaves will be in the upcoming years.


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