Tools for Food Stories, Lancaster to the US, via Scarborough

After successfully launching the ‘Tools for Food Stories’ toolkit at the Food Power Conference back in June we’ve had lots of positive feedback from food alliances across the UK. Keen to share them further, especially with those with lived experience of food poverty & individuals working at a grassroots level we held a residential in Scarborough over a sunny August weekend. Several of those who co-​designed the tools in Newcastle attended & helped to facilitate the workshop in which they were shared. We explored how the tools could be used for activism & campaigning, alongside capturing stories & opening up conversations about access & affordability to food.

One attendee said‘I enjoyed most the part with the Talking Food Card Deck and the local food cards, really easy to use and a good ice breaker with both children and adults.’

A day earlier myself & Penny, one of the co-​designers from Newcastle visited Imagination Lab to co-​design a tool which would help capture learning, structure conversations & understand peoples journeys as individuals with lived experience, or involved in activism, campaigning & food justice. The tool would be used on a trip to the US, firstly to the ‘Closing the Hunger Gap’ Conference in North Carolina, and then in New York on field visits with Why Hunger.

With just four of us & little under two hours a tool had emerged, a colourful fold out caterpillar, playful yet practical, and something that could neatly sit in the back of our notebooks. 

The tool became so much more than just something to capture learning over in the US, alliances so the prototype & started to think about how it could be used to evaluate expert by experience journeys, along with a whole host of other ideas.

Whilst in the US both myself, Heather & Penny had a copy of the tool, it was very different to anything we’d ever designed or used with Leapfrog prior but so adaptable, the ‘friendly caterpillar’ who gently reminded us amongst all the activity & excitement of the trip what we were there to capture & learn. Others attending the conference were excited too by the tool & I’m sure it will go onto be used internationally in a range of contexts.

I’m excited to see how & where the tools continue to be used, and how I can continue to adapt them to overcome challenges & enhance my work.

Ben Pearson, Empowerment Officer for Food Power



Leapfrog Food Safari in Darwen featured on the Channel 4 News

In the ‘Tools for Empowerment’ project we have been co-​designing tools to capture and tell tools about food and food poverty. During this project the young co-​designers wanted to explore local food in Darwen. Leapfrog worked with Food Power with input from young people to design a new tool to empower people to explore food. After much discussion we designed the tool to have a menu of 12 mini research challenges and a big map of Darwen inside.

On the day the young people divided into 3 groups each looking at a certain area of Darwen and (accompanied by Leapfrog and Food Power’s Empowerment Officer Ben Pearson) walked around Darwen interviewing shop keepers and shoppers and researching what food was available in their town. They loved the fun challenge of buying the heaviest bag of sweets for a pound and the £2 Healthy Food Challenge which showed how difficult it was to buy cheap healthy food. Feedback from the group was they felt empowered by the tool as they could choose which activities to do. They became more confident as they went along when it came to interviewing shopkeepers and shoppers who were only too happy to stop for a chat. The team used a large table in Weatherspoons to return to in-​between Food Safair challenges. Once the Safari was complete the young people transposed their findings onto a large map of Darwen. 

A Channel 4 news cameraman filmed parts of the food safari and the Social Affairs Editor Jackie Long interviewed members of Blackburn with Darwen’s Food Partnership Tia and Corey who understand food poverty and are determined to do something about it through campaigning. This was featured on the Channel 4 news as young ambassadors including Tia and Corey handed in their #Right2Food Charter at 10 Downing Street with Dame Emma Thompson. The clip can be seen here:‑1–6m-foodbank-parcels-in-one-year-rise-of-20-per-cent

Leapfrog’s aim is for the tools for Food Stories can be used to capture stories about food poverty which can support food activists and experts by lived experience of food poverty to actively campaign for change. The Food Safari tool can be downloaded as part of the Tools for Food Stories Toolbox.




This tool is good for…

During the two previous workshops with Morecambe Bay Health & Care Partners and Lancaster CVS the participants identified and developed eleven tools, that helped them to address their challenge of engaging with large or diverse groups of people. This final co-​design workshop took the co-​design team (plus five people working in community and voluntary sectors who had never seen the tools before) through a process to refine and improve the final tools so they work in any given context for engagement at scale. At the start of the workshop the tool owners were asked to create a title, scenarios and instructions for each tool which proposed what the tool is good for, how it could be used practically and describe a specific example of use.

Everyone was invited to test out all the new tools and instructions, working in small groups to think about how the tool could be used in their engagement practise. After testing the tools and their instructions out the group left detailed feedback on how the tool/​instructions could be improved and presented this to the whole group. The final tools and instructions which were turned into one-​page guidelines explaining what the tool was good for and 3 suggestions for how each tool could be adapted for use in a different scenario. Once finalised these guidelines will be downloaded along with each tool within the ‘Conversations at Scale’ toolbox. Some examples of the kinds of tools you can find within the toolbox and what each tool is good for are:

  • The Uber Plan- Thistool is good for working in groups to plan the stages of a journey, agree where they want to get to and think about what could happen along the way.
  • Backpack– A tool to ensure you have everything you need to make each and every stage of a journey.
  • Bridge over troubled water- This tool is good for creating a plan of activities to meet goals, milestones and deadlines.
  • Wheel of Priorities- This tool is good for deciding what to focus on.



Nostalgia, Saturday Stew and life on Byker in Newcastle

Over two previous workshops Leapfrog supported young activists and teenage experts by experience of food poverty in Lancashire to co-​design tools to capture stories about food and food poverty. This third workshop took place at Food Nation, a North East Social Enterprise passionate about food and health delivering cooking skills, school food education & catering. Four experts by experience of food poverty from Byker in Newcastle took part, along with Nicola and Vicki from Food Nation.

After introductions the groupdiscussed what makes a good story and the best way to empower people to tell stories about food. Topics that came up time and time again were the power of nostalgia and reminiscence to help people open up about their memories and experiences of food. The group clearly had vast experience of supporting communities from Byker. From telling people about where and when they could buy discounted food, access free meals or how to cook a nutritious meal using leftovers or a few ingredients from the Food Bank they told us how they regularly give practical help and support to their community in a non-​judgemental way. They do this through getting to know people over a chat and emphasising with their circumstances which can lead to deeper conversations, ‘how are you managing?’, What do you need? Where can we send you for help?’

We introduced the group to the tools the young experts and activists had come up with in Lancashire. The card deck of questions tohelp start conversations about food and food poverty provoked strong reactions to some of the questions which some of the experts said could be rude or insensitive to ask on a first meeting. The experts helped to edit and add to the questions. The idea of a card deck of cards of photos of local foods which help to start conversations and sharing of memories went down well. The group contributed ideas for local foods such as Pease Pudding.

By the end of the workshop the group had come up with ideas for new tools such as a zine tool to help people share their own food story and bust myths, a recipe building tool and a shopping/​cooking tips tool. Leapfrog left with assurances of developing all the tools and coming back to Newcastle with the new versions to continue working together. The new Food Stories toolbox will be online in time for the Food Power Conference in Newcastle in June. 




Co-​designing tools to capture stories about food

Leapfrog is working with Food Power to help people capture and share stories about food. Our goal is to create flexible tools that engaged citizens, young and old, that can be used to capture and tell stories that reveal lived experiences of food poverty and the many challenges that accompany it.
We have been collaborating with Ben Pearson at Church Action on Poverty to work with young people in Blackburn with Darwen, Clitheroe and Preston to explore what makes stories powerful, and how to start collecting them. This began with a workshop held at Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio School in November 2018, leading to follow up events in Preston and Newcastle in February 2019.
To date the young people involved in the project to date have proposed tools to help map out what people eat, how they use their kitchen and a placemat for starting conversations about food preferences. They have also co-​designed two card decks; one containing examples of local food and, the other offering questions about everyday food. We have refined and developed each tool with feedback, and tested many ways of starting conversations and collecting examples of food through with photography. The young people involved in this work are also working with local film maker Broden Salmon to create a series of short films built around their experiences with accessing, affording and enjoying food.
The next phase of the project involves collaborating with Food Nation in Newcastle to share and develop the co-​designed tools further.

Scaling Up Leapfrog. Tool opportunities emerge

Between the first and second workshop one of the engagement challenges groups worked with Leapfrog’s designer David to develop a tool idea they had come up with. At the start of the second workshop Andy Knox, Director of Population Health and Engagement at Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group explained the initial idea and sketch for the tool and how this was turned into the tool through discussions with David. This brief presentation helped the group to see how elements of their engagement challenges from the previous workshop could be turned into an idea for an engagement tool.

The groups were asked to revisit the engagement challenge they had chosen to focus on last time and try to identify any opportunities of creating a tool to address a particular issue. They were given a ‘tool opportunity’ sticker to highlight any ideas that could be turned into a tool then completed a pro forma which described each tool, its purpose along with a sketch of how the tool could look. The groups then circulated around the room to look at everybody’s tool ideas and suggest how they could be improved. 

The rest of the session was spent working on the tool designs in detail. Some highly imaginative ideas emerged for completely new tools and tools that were based on existing Leapfrog tools or complemented them. Towards the end of the session the group pinned all the tool ideas onto whiteboards. They were invited to write comments on the tools as to which ones they would like Leapfrog to produce. The groups presented the final selection of tools and how they saw the tool working for feedback.

Leapfrog agreed that David would work on as many tools as possible before the next workshop and email the draft designs for each tool to the groups for feedback. The final workshop in the series will refine and improve the final tools so they work in any given context. The group will creative simple instructions for each tool and be given the opportunity to design an engagement event/​s using a selection of the new and existing Leapfrog tools.