Charity issues

Sporting Communities – Cook, Eat, Play in Chaddesden Park

Sporting Communities has just turned 7 years old. It was formed from the Hanley Youth Project based near Stoke, and has developed a strong presence in Derby over the last few years. It is an award winning Community Interest Company that focuses, principally, on children and young people, providing a range of youth/play based groups and events. It also works with older people to promote better mobility and well-being.

“Sporting Communities are community and social development specialists. We listen to the needs of communities and then offer a myriad of services to best support the individuals within that community or the community as a whole”

The word “Sporting” does belie the range of work that it is involved in. It extends to include many forms of creative programmes, mentoring, counselling, play, events, fundraising, work placement and volunteering. The unique aspect of how Sporting Communities operates is that it works with academic institutions to feed back their experiences, draw from wider research in this field from  which there is then a “feed forward” into its future projects.  This means that there is good underpinning structure to the work that they do.  When talking to Ben Rigby, Managing Director, and Ross Podyma, Director of Social Change, it is clear that everything is well-considered, sensitive, and built on strong foundations.

Unusually, for an organisation, they operate, to ethical principles. For them it’s about operating fairly, to best practice, and not being detrimental to others, and the environment. Additionally, they will only work with people and organisations who apply the same code of conduct.

One of its many programmes, is “Cook, Eat, Play”.  This was established as part of the national “Fit & Fed” campaign. The one featured below is based in Chaddesden Park.

“At Sporting Communities we believe that every child deserves the right to a healthy balanced diet.

Many families are finding themselves, through no fault of their own, in a difficult financial situation. Whilst many children can access free school meals during their time at school, during the school holidays a lot of families struggle to provide enough food to feed their children.

Sporting Communities’ Cook, Eat, Play programme provides a setting whereby families who need additional support can come together and access a high quality service that addresses this issue.”

Cook – Children and young people are able to prepare healthy, nutritious meals. Children are also taught about the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet in a way that is fun and easy to understand. The wider family are also taught simple food preparation techniques that make cooking easy and are shown how they can stretch their budget to provide affordable, healthy, tasty meals.

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Eat – Families then sit down together as a community and enjoy the food that the children have prepared, improving community cohesion. Some research suggest that family meals lead to better relationships and better eating habits as well as children having increased self-respect, less chance of depression, obesity, or experimenting with drugs and alcohol later on in life.

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Play – Play is an essential part of every child’s life and is vital for the enjoyment of childhood as well as social, emotional, intellectual and physical development. The last stage of this programme involves families in a range of free play and non/minimal equipment based play. We teach children and their family members these simple games and activities so that they can easily replicate them in the home or at their local park.

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities

A key part of the process is talking to the children involved to see what they would like to do “next time”.

Photo Courtesy of Sporting Communities


Ross Podyma, Sporting Communities Director of Social Change who is very much an active participant working and playing with the children summed up, eloquently, what the value of the service is in his academic paper entitled “The efficiency of playwork as a universal service” [My emphases]

“When asked recently, what does ‘return on investment’ look like in relation to children’s universal play work, I answered, over time, a well balanced adult who makes a valuable contribution to society. It just takes a little bit of investment, patience and humanity to make any real difference. Like most effective strategies, keeping the vision and approach simple gets results.

Our children deserve a better stake in where they live, and it is we as the adults who have the power and influence to make a stand for the rights of children. Political leaders and policy makers should look closely at the positive impacts of what play has to offer and how this correlates with developing communities, the enrichment of community life and general wellbeing. New models of cost/benefit analysis are required to evidence the serious impact of what playwork can bring to this agenda, and decision makers who are searching for answers to social problems must reconsider the apparent value and appeal of a focused playwork approach as an early intervention strategy. Our leaders need to have the courage to lean into the discomfort of the unknown by embracing universal playwork provision as key component in building our communities. “

It can only be hoped that the dedicated and ethical work of Sporting Communities becomes increasingly prevalent and influential in Supporting more Communities within Derby.

Categories: Charity issues

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