Meet some of the community groups finding creative solutions to food poverty, mental health and assumptions around gender identity.
andyBreakfast club at Bristol’s most deprived schools
Children at Bristol’s 30 most deprived primary schools are to receive food provision in a breakfast club initiative aiming to tackle food poverty in the city.
The region’s biggest food charity, FareShare South West (FSSW), is to offer the Feeding Bristol initiative to kids in primary schools where a basic Breakfast Club is already provided but is often restricted by a lack of funds or capacity.
In some schools over 60% of pupils are from deprived backgrounds or eligible for free school meals, but there is currently no state funding for food outside of school hours.
Offering everything from cooked breakfast ingredients to fruit and juices, the scheme will also offer food holiday clubs, when the absence of free school meals can be a huge challenge for families.
The charity works with food companies to redistribute products that have become surplus before they reach supermarket shelves so also reduce food waste.
Julian Mines, CEO at FareShare South West said: “No child should go to school hungry, and no child should go hungry during the holidays. We want to make sure Bristol schools are supported with food to allow children to achieve their potential in the classroom, and support them at home too.”
The scheme has already been successful at Millpond Primary School in Easton, where the breakfast club has coincided with a considerable improvement in attendance. Julie Vincent, the school’s breakfast club coordinator, said: “The good food we receive means that the breakfast club is very popular- about half the school comes!”
Shazia Kousar, a mother of two boys, said: “My son Maneer loves to come and he won’t eat like this at home. All the mums say their kids don’t eat at home, but here, they eat.”
For more information, go to www.faresharesouthwest.org.uk
Smash the Patriarchy playgroup
“As parents, most of us want our children to have the freedom to be who they want to be, so we want to start thinking about how gender norms can be oppressive and affect your ability to parent and the ability of your child to become the person they want to be.”
Natalie Bennett is the founder of Smash the Patriarchy playgroup – a new concept designed to create a space for parents and their young children to think about gender in a different way.
She works for the cooperative Tiger, which delivers workshops on gender and gender inequality in schools, and as a parent of three-year-old Ruben, she felt disillusioned by the “soul-destroying” playgroups on offer.
“I’m a feminist parent and it’s something I think about all the time, so I thought why not create a playgroup that helps parents, who also care about these issues, come together and create a little community that thinks about how we can raise our children away from oppressive gender norms and stereotypes.”
As an alternative to the toys and story books that can be highly gendered, sessions include feminist storytime using a collection of books she has built up that “challenge gender norms and look at different identities that may not always be represented in the media”.
She has run six sessions at St Werburghs Community Centre, but plans to put on the group at nurseries around various parts of Bristol if she receives funding, to reach a wider audience.
With 150 people having joined the Facebook group and parents asking for more sessions, it appears that the demand is very much there.
To find out more search for ‘Smash the Patriarchy’ Kid and Adult Group on Facebook, or send Natalie an email on Natalie.Bennett1985@outlook.com
Scoop Cooking Club
Scoop Cooking Club is a messy, fun and very sociable affair. The club was set up in January and parents are encouraged to bring their pre-schoolers, who help out with chopping, stirring and mixing eggs.
The club gets funding from local company Nisbets Catering to pay for the venue and participants pay £2-4 each a week for ingredients. After consultations with residents about the kind of thing they wanted and a trial funded by the lottery’s Big Local, the club was was set up in collaboration with local residents by community development officer Racel Davies.
Davies is keen to point out that the club was set up with residents and not just for them. It’s an informal drop-in club with a core group of five to six families turning up most weeks and others turning up as and when they can or want. And the end aim is for it to be self-sustaining. “The aim of our job is really to get us out of a job,” she tells the Cable.
“The ethos is that we all turn up and chip in, everyone cooks, does the dishes, takes it in turns to mind the children… We all chip in roughly the same but if you’re having a bad week where you might not be able to then that’s totally fine,” she says.
During school holidays, the older children come along and the group has decided to do some community cooking over the summer holidays to help out families who normally get school meals. “It is open to everyone but it will be targeted to ones that schools know might need it through the holidays,” says Davies.
Scoop Cooking Club meets 12.30 – 3 pm every Thursday at Lawrence Weston Community Farm. Contribution is £2-4 or whatever you can afford and is open to any resident of Lawrence Weston. Contact Rachel Davies to book a place: 07392108886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recovery Through Sport football club
“It’s harder to make friends as adults. As kids we’re put in situations to make us make friends, at school we’re put into groups and stuff, which is great for our development but as adults – unless you’re quite outgoing and go to stuff on your own – there’s not really those sort of things around,” says Jacob Kelly.
Kelly is a mental health support worker on the South Gloucestershire early intervention in psychosis team with Avon and Wiltshire Partnership NHS Trust. He and Nurse Bob Broomhead started up the Recovery Through Sport football group in June after piloting the idea last year.
“We’ve all got full time jobs working in a mental health team, we’re lucky we’ve got an amazing manager who’s helped us and she sees the benefits of it long-term,” he tells the Cable. We talk to him just before the first match.
“Some mental health groups are quite strict, but if someone’s just managed to turn up I’m happy with that,” he says. “If someone’s struggling with anxiety and depression and they’ve turned up I don’t even care if they don’t play, at least they’ve got out of their house, that’s a massive perk for me.”
You don’t come across a lot of football group’s whose main aim is to improve people’s mental health. But Kelly says it’s not such a strange idea – and thinks it’s something that can really help people.
“We’re not doing anything that’s really that outside the box, We’re just doing something that is probably not really offered to a lot of the people that are probably struggling the most,” he says.
The group runs every Thursday from 3pm at Shaftesbury park in Frenchay. To book a place, visit their website: https://www.wellaware.org.uk/activities/recovery-through-sport-football-group/.
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