At the end of last year we introduced a new supplier in our freezers. We posted about them on our social media but the nature of social media meant that we really couldn’t do the project justice so I’ve decided to treat you to the story in a blog.
I’m from Bolton and have been involved in a number of food projects there and so I’d heard mention of Bolton’s H.M.Pasties on social media from time to time, not really knowing much about it, just hearing good reviews of their delicious pasties and pies.
One day last year on the way home from work I had the radio tuned to radio 4 and I heard the words ‘We’re heading to Bolton’. Of course my ears pricked and I continued to listen. H.M.Pasties founder Lee Wakeham was being interviewed as they were a finalist in the BBC Food and Farming Awards in the category, Best Food Producer of the Year. It was then that I heard the inspiring story of the business and immediately wanted to stock them in Village Greens.
If you already know about H.M.Pasties you will know that the HMP has two meaning: Handmade Pasties and Her Majesty’s Pleasure, the latter being because the business was set up to support ex-offenders as they build a new life for themselves out of prison. It was set up in 2018 when Lee Wakeham, who had also experienced the transition out of prison life had seen numerous examples of employers letting ex-offenders go simply because they were not ready for the world of work.
He explained in the interview how, to cope with life in prison, a fight or flight mindset is often adopted and this mindset does not gel well with life in employment. In addition to this, freedom from prison comes with a number of new responsibilities which many people may have lost or never learnt the skills to deal with: managing a home, managing money, managing relationships etc. This additional pressure increases the chances of that person returning to a life of crime.
He decided to set up his own business and not just provide employment to those with a criminal record, he would provide an employment programme with peer mentoring, ensuring a fair wage was paid, all to increase his employees’ chances of long-term employment. He explained that his aim was to get people to the stage where they were stable, had confidence and skills and were no longer doing the damaging things they were doing before prison. With money they would also be able to make better decisions and they would be a lot less likely to resort to crime with so much to lose.
All parts of the business are handled by ex-offenders including manufacture, sales and distribution and even the ingredients are sourced, where possible, from prison estates. I just love the concept and the social benefit is hard to argue with: similar projects have claimed there is 41% reduction in reoffending rates for those involved.
(Our current range: Chickpea Curry Pasty, Leek and mushroom Pie, Saag Aloo Pie and Vegan Sausage Roll)
To set up H.M.Pasties Lee sourced funding and had the aim to become a fully independent and sustainable limited company. Now the business has grown to such a size that it now supplies pies and pasties to stores all across Greater Manchester (including Village Greens) and even Manchester City Football Club. You can also pick up a delicious hot pie or pasty if you are passing their bakery on Norris Street, Bolton. I had the chance to do just that last week and got to meet Lee who treated me to THE best pasty I’ve ever had: the chickpea curry pasty. Oh my word, the pastry was delicious and the filling was perfect! Not too spicy, just really flavoursome, chunky and really generously filled. I’m getting geeky now but the pastry to filling ratio was spot on! We will be stocking them in the shop in the freezers from this week alongside your old favourites and their new vegan sausage roll.
In addition to their success in growing the business in the last few years they also achieved recognition by some prestigious food awards last year:
2021 Bronze British Pie Award for their Cornish Style Pasty in the Pasty category
2021 Food and Farming Award Finalist – Best Food Producer of the year
To find out more visit their website and to listen to the radio interview that started it all just follow the links below:
Thank you so much for reading. I absolutely love this project and I look forward to hearing your feedback on this delicious range in the shop.