Food and Wellbeing
Supporting children to be happy, healthy and motivated to learn
As London’s largest provider of holiday food and activities, we know food insecurity and social isolation continue to affect children and young people in complex ways post pandemic. This can be extremely damaging to their development and mental health.
Throughout 2022, we saw a significant increase in demand for our services as families began to navigate the cost of living crisis and growing number of children were missing out on essential needs. London child poverty rates are now reportedly at 42% (that’s over 700,000 children) – the highest of any UK region ¹ ² – with four in ten children living on average at 66% of the poverty line.³
Eligibility criteria for free school meals means that thousands of children do not qualify for extra support. Government funding only covers six of the 13 weeks of school holidays and local authorities are not mandated to cover the other seven weeks, leaving children in those areas vulnerable and without food support.
Kitchen Social is a feature of the Mayor of London’s Food Strategy (with GLA investment to expand our delivery of the programme to roll out in 2023). It is run on an inclusive basis, during every school holiday, with no child in need required to prove their free school meals eligibility.
We deliver through a London-wide network of community organisations to provide safe places for children to go where they can receive free nutritious meals, socialise with friends and take part in activities such as sports, theatre, arts and crafts and cooking.
Kitchen Social has a positive impact in alleviating pressures on household budgets, providing health and wellbeing benefits for young people, reducing social isolation and developing cooking skills and nutritional understanding. Wider benefits include enhanced community cohesion and upskilling volunteers.
Recipe boxes and ready made meals
During the pandemic, we launched Take & Make to provide nutritional, ‘low cook’, high-quality recipe-kit boxes for children and their families.
All recipes were designed to be made with limited kitchen utensils to ensure cooking at home is as inclusive as possible. Every box contains instructions and skill training cards plus online video tutorials to build confidence in cooks of all ages.
Take & Make is now recommended by the Government as a credible, impactful means of increasing awareness and understanding of healthy eating and supporting Holiday Activities and Food delivery programmes.
Create & Make and Heat & Eat boxes are in development for 2023 to utilise surplus food produce and create recipes which could be produced in a microwave given the growing energy crisis.
Kitchen Social delivered 75,738 meals to 19,771 children and young people
Take & Make provided 66,962 recipe boxes for young people, equating to 269,854 meals (each box makes a meal for four)
Community organisations involved in our pan-London Kitchen Social network
“I like the food boxes because we can make them at home too to help our families.”
“It is so important to serve meals for children in the school holidays. They all get the same meal because they coo and share it together, ans there is a feeling of equality. No child has to feel worried about not having enough.”
“I get to cook the food at my Youth Club from the Take & Make boxes and take it back to my Mum and sister. They really enjoy it when I cook for them and bring them back a nice hot meal.”