As the summer holidays kick-off, over 27,500 children at risk of food insecurity and isolation are set to access free meals and holiday activities via Kitchen Social, run by an independent charity, the Mayor’s Fund for London.
Launched in 2017, Kitchen Social was originally intended as a three-year programme. However, the combined impact of Covid-19 on low-income families, Brexit on food prices and the inadequate response from the Government, means the charity has decided to run its initiative for another three years. Over 100-holiday clubs around the capital have received funding for quality food and holiday activities aimed at the estimated 250,000 children and young people in London who are excluded from the Government-funded scheme, announced in the wake of the Marcus Rashford campaign.
As well as the holiday clubs, the Mayor’s Fund is providing 50,000 ‘Take and Make’ recipe boxes to local authorities running Government-funded programmes for families of children with free school meals eligibility. These boxes contain ingredients for four portions of nutritious food, alongside recipe cards and online video tutorials.
Announced earlier this year, the Department for Education Holiday Activities and Food Programme will be running across London. However, it only funds six of the 13 weeks of school holidays per year. It is targeted at young people with free school meals eligibility, meaning their families earn less than £7,400 per year, before benefits and after-tax. According to Greater London Authority figures from June 2019, this means that at least 200,000 young people at risk of food insecurity, including hunger, will miss out – a figure which has grown substantially since the pandemic. Kitchen Social, in contrast, is run on an inclusive basis, with no child in need required to prove their free school meals eligibility.
Speaking at the start of the school holidays, Mayor’s Fund for London CEO Kirsty McHugh said:
“It’s shocking that Kitchen Social still has to continue its activities. However, the insistence by the Treasury of targeting Government funding on children with free school meals eligibility only means that around a quarter of a million young people in need will miss out. We’re deeply grateful for the support from so many independent funders, corporate supporters and individual donors. Without their help, a lot of young people would miss out on food and activities this summer.”
Omar Allibhoy, owner of a restaurant chain and an ambassador for the Mayor’s Fund for London. Having devised low-cost meals for families during the pandemic, he said:
“I am a dad of two, working with food and knowing the important role it plays in children’s development and their opportunities; this is a cause close to my heart.”