Fresh Beginnings

Food poverty is a real challenge for many families in the North East. According to the North East Child Poverty Commission, child poverty affects 1 in 4 children in the region; the national average is 1 in 5. The North East also has the highest levels of obesity in the country (30% of adults), and the poverty gap has doubled in the last ten years.  

On the 5th August, we launched our training kitchen in Chester-le-Streetwhere people can learn cooking skills, including how to cook on a budget. We believe that this could really make a difference to how people can be empowered to combat food poverty in their own households.  


Matt and our renovation team have built our kitchen at the back of the REfUSE cafe. Trainees, volunteers and staff have all pulled together in record time to create a fully equipped space for food preparation and teaching. 

REfUSE café is all about combatting food waste by creating delicious meals with food that would otherwise have been discarded, so we have been delighted to collaborate with REfUSE in this initiative. Mim Skinner, director of REfUSE and our Women’s Support Worker, says: 

We’re really excited to be partnering with Handcrafted. We often have volunteers who want to get involved in the cafe but because of mental health problems or other barriers find the space too busy or crowded, or lack the confidence to get involved. It’s amazing to be able to signpost these people to Handcrafted, on the same site, where they’ll be supported to learn new skills and become familiar with cooking and working in groups. We hope to be able to welcome back those who’ve been learning skills at Handcrafted into volunteering and work with us.

Handcrafted creates community around shared practical activities: we learn together, we create together, we laugh and share food together, and the magic just happens. Our trainees have already made a great success of simple and delicious recipes from bread to brownies, soup, beef hot pot and jam tarts.

Ian told us how cooking sessions have meant so much more to him than just food preparation: 

Learning life skills and meeting new people who have been through all kinds of stuff – no one judges your past decisions AND you get to take away something delicious you’ve made to share with those close to you. You can feel proud of what you’ve made.  

Specific cookery sessions have also been run for our women’s group. Being able to cook on a budget and knowing how to prepare healthy meals empowers people to positively change their lifestyles. Mim Skinner, who runs our Women’s group, says:  

The Chester Le Street Hub will enable us to be able to expand our provision for women. We’ve been running a women’s group at the REfUSE cafe for over a year and now will be able to link people into support 5 days a week. We’re also going to be starting an exercise and healthy eating programme which will enable us to give more holistic support to people in the handcrafted community. 

Audrey told us: 

Last week we made cookies. My daughter and son-in-law came to visit me and tried them.  He was so impressed he told my daughter to get the ingredients in so that, when I next visited, I can show her how to make them. 



Emmanuel Church in Durham gave us the opportunity to support their Holiday Hunger project. Our brilliant trainees were more than happy to lend their skills to the wider community by making brownies for the kids using a family favourite recipe shared with us by Hannah from the exquisite Cake Stories of Jesmond.  The number of children suffering with hunger over the summer holidays is growing quicker in the North East than anywhere else in the country. Holiday Hunger provides meals during school summer holidays for struggling families.


Life is better with handcrafted brownies … 

We would like to thank Imagine Foundation and Virgin Money for their generous support in enabling us to set up the training kitchen. We are also immensely grateful to Hathaway Roofing Ltd, who donated much of the equipment that we use in the kitchen.








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