Meet Jo Cordy, founder of Free Cakes for Kids, Reading

Jo Cordy set up the Free Cakes for Kids group in Reading in 2014, after moving to the area. She had previously been a volunteer baker for the Free Cakes group in Hackney and was surprised to find that there wasn’t a group in Reading. Since then they have made over 450 cakes for children in the Reading area and now have a small committee who help run the group and share the work that’s involved.

Tell us about Free Cakes for Kids and your role…

Free Cakes for Kids Reading is a community organisation, and part of the national Free Cakes for Kids network. We bake birthday cakes for families who find it difficult to provide a cake for their child because we believe that every child deserves to have a birthday cake, and the chance to celebrate their special day, whatever their circumstances.

Families are referred to us by social workers, schools and charities across the Reading area such as Home-Start and Berkshire Women’s Aid. The reason for the referral might be because of financial difficulties, because the family is living in temporary or refuge accommodation, because the family has children with additional needs, or many other reasons. The cakes are baked by volunteer bakers who aim to decorate them with the child’s favourite theme, whether that’s Frozen, Peppa Pig or the Incredible Hulk!

Describe a typical working day for you…

I run Free Cakes for Kids in my spare time, so there’s no such thing as a typical day really. In a usual month we get between 6 and 12 cake requests, and my role involves a lot of the logistics around taking cake requests, assigning bakers and arranging deliveries. Occasionally I might get to bake a cake myself if we’re short of volunteers, but usually as soon as I send a cake request out to our bakers I’m flooded with offers! Our bakers are a fantastic group! In pre-Covid times we often got involved in community events such as the Reading Town Meal and the Children’s Festival, and we ran cake stalls and free cupcake decorating at those events. Hopefully those things will be able to start up again soon.

What’s the most challenging part of the role?

December is always very busy and exhausting – we offer to make cakes and cupcakes for parties being organised by various charities, and we can end up making and delivering well over 300 cupcakes in the run up to Christmas!

What’s the best part of your job?

We don’t always hear anything back from families after we’ve provided a cake, but when we do get feedback, either directly or via the referrer, then that’s definitely one of the best things. It’s great to hear how much they loved the cake, and I enjoy being able to pass the comments onto whichever of our volunteers made that particular cake. I also love seeing the pictures of the cakes that our amazing volunteers make, from delicious looking chocolate cakes to intricate fondant-covered creations.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background…

I have lived in Reading for 7 years, and am married with two children aged 9 and 7. Both of their birthdays are in March, so at this time of year I’m normally spending a lot of my time designing and planning their cakes! I work part-time at the University of Reading as an Academic Developer, supporting staff with their teaching and curriculum design. At the moment I’m doing that from home, but usually our office has a very well-stocked cake table – there really isn’t any part of my life that doesn’t revolve around cake!

Read more on the Free Cakes for Kids Reading website.