A programme that addresses the growing and serious issue of children and young people facing food insecurity and social isolation outside of term time. Poor nutrition and isolation not only affect a child’s physical wellbeing, but also their long-term educational attainment and employment prospects, thereby perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
Kitchen Social gives children and young people a safe place to go during the school holidays where they can socialise, make new friends and receive a free, nutritious meal. During 2021/22, the programme delivered 75,738 meals to 19,771 children and young people.
Children’s food insecurity continues to rise as the spiralling cost of living is hitting low-income Londoners particularly hard, especially when children are out of school and don’t have the nutritional safety net of Free School Meals.
Government-funded Holiday Activities & Food programmes (HAF) only support part-time provision for six of the 13 weeks of school holidays per year and many children who need support in the capital do not benefit.
Operating across London since 2017, Kitchen Social works with a diverse range of grass-roots organisations, including youth centres, schools, faith groups, libraries, theatres, urban farms, adventure playgrounds, sports clubs and special needs centres. These ‘hubs’ each receive a tailored package of support to help them deliver food and activities. This includes training and resources, quality assurance, support with safeguarding and networking events.
The programme is inclusive and has a wider eligibility criterion than free school meals.
We are proud to have brought together a coalition of food businesses, charities, funders and corporates to help tackle the issue of food insecurity. Kitchen Social is also a feature of the Mayor of London’s Food Strategy.
“My children have been attending the hub and they enjoy all the activities as well as the food. As a parent it’s good to see my children making new friends, being active and eating healthy food as at home they just watch TV and eat junk food…the programme also helped us a family. Not only did it give me some much needed free time but it has impacted positively of the family budget. They are always telling me when they get home how much they love attending.”
“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.”
As part of a 2-year evaluation partnership with Northumbria University, we have found that the community organisations working with Kitchen Social deliver significant impact in the following areas:
- Positive community networks
- Water consumption; a significant increase
- Readiness to learn
- Improved diet leading to nutritional intake improvement
- More involvement in activities than those who do not attend holiday hubs
- New friendships
- Less weight gain than those who do not attend holiday hubs
- Improved behaviour
- Time with people that they wouldn’t otherwise have met