Helping children stave off holiday hunger in Leeds

A crafty scheme to combat holiday hunger is set to return to Leeds this summer.

Tuesday, 2nd July 2019, 2:43 pm
ACTIVITIES: Stitch-Up will be running a summer school where children can learn crafts and eat healthily over the holidays.

The Stitch-UP summer school in Meanwood will see children eating healthy meals while they do crafts like weaving and knitting.

The summer school, which is funded by the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food Programme through Leeds Community Foundation, aims to help families to feed their children during the long summer holiday.

MASTER CLASS: Director Jen Sharp leading a macrame workshop at Stitch-Ups studio on Meanwood Road. All pictures: @_jocrawford.

Stitch-Up director Jen Sharp said: “We not only focus on craft activities in the summer for young people, but also to help with holiday hunger.

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“There are a lot of young people in certain areas of Leeds who are experiencing poverty. Often the summer holidays are a tricky time and sometimes families are struggling to feed their children.

“So this project is not only aimed at providing creative activities, but also we will be cooking healthy meals from scratch with ingredients from Fair Share to give out to all the young people.”

The summer school was held last year at Stitch-Up’s base on Meanwood Road and was hailed as a big success. Around 60 children, aged from eight to 16, from areas like Little London, Meanwood, Woodhouse and Headingley, took part in the five-week course.

The mums' knitting group at Quarry Mount Childrens Centre in 2018.

Mum-of-one Jen added: “All the young people really enjoyed it, and they loved the food element as well. Lots of young people were trying healthy foods that they had never tried before.”

Stitch-Up is busy planning this year’s event and will be contacting schools to distribute flyers drumming up interest in the scheme.

It will run for five weeks over the summer holidays at Stitch-Up’s Meanwood Road studio on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11am-1pm.

Tickets for free places will soon be going online at stitch-up.eventbrite.com.

Stitch-Up's community knitting course at LS14 Trust in Seacroft in 2018. Picture: Joanne Crawford.

The summer school is just one of several community events run by the social enterprise. It has also worked with new mums across Leeds, helping them to make clothes for their babies. The scheme was funded through Leeds Community Foundation’s Winter Wellbeing grant. The money paid for crèche places so the mums could attend the outreach scheme.

Jen said: “The mums absolutely loved it. They enjoyed it so much, learning not only skills for themselves but also making items for their babies.

“They would learn how to make a hat or a scarf or how to crochet a blanket.”

Stitch-UP has also worked with children with disabilities and special educational needs. Recently it joined forces with John Jamieson School in Oakwood, a Specialist Inclusive Learning Centre. Stitch-Up ran a ten-week craft course for them. The young people tried lots of different textile crafts, including making pom poms and weaving. Some of their handiwork was sold at a summer fair and raised funds for the school.

The community work ties into Stitch-Up’s ethos of bringing people together through craft. Jen added: “We focus on practical craft skills, but we use textiles as a tool to bring people together, to introduce people to each other and to help to improve well being.”

And Stitch-Up plans to help even more people later this year when it will open a second community studio at Meanwood Community Centre, which has recently been taken on by Leeds Community Spaces to help increase engagement and activity at the centre.

FACT FILE:

Stitch-UP was founded by Jen Sharp in 2014.

The craft school is based at 232 Meanwood Road, Leeds.

Stitch-Up specialises in textiles and runs lots of courses and workshops across Leeds.

It works with people of all ages and teaches them skills like macrame, knitting, crocheting and weaving.

Stitch Up is a community interest company and a not for profit organisation.

It runs paid for craft workshops on weeknights and weekends and any money made is ploughed back into its community activities like working with new mums and children with special educational needs.

Jen works with local makers, artists and teachers to run projects.

Stitch-Up also offers volunteering and development opportunities.

Jen’s partner, Mike Johns, also helps to promote Stitch-Up’s work. He is a graphic designer who helps create logos and promotional material for Stitch-Up to drive engagement with people.

Stitch-Up is planning to run even more groups throughout the week when it open a second studio in Meanwood towards the end on the year.

To find out more about Stitch-Up see: www.facebook.com/Stitchupleeds.

They are also on Instagram and Twitter via @stitch_up. Event details can also be found at stitch-up.eventbrite.com.