How young Londoners are giving back to communities

16th June 2023

By Huda, Mayor’s Fund for London Youth Board member

The Kitchen Social programme supports youth organisations to deliver creative, sustaining, and fulfilling activities that ensure children and their families can access food, support, and opportunities all year. The programme started in 2017 in response to the high levels of poverty in low-income families – which leaves them unable to afford necessities and food and at increased risk of social isolation.

The Food Trust Foundation has found that 1 in 4 children, an estimated 4 million young people, have experienced food insecurity in the UK. The effects of this are significant. Poverty affects the physical and mental wellbeing of young people and their ability to perform in school or access opportunities.

To combat this, Kitchen Social provides the opportunity to meet others, receive free nutritious meals, and socialise outside school. Since the programme was launched, it has grown to support 90 community hubs across Greater London. Over the 2021/22 academic year, the programme helped over 19,000 children and young people and provided over 75,000 meals.

Currently, the programme delivers long-term support and change for many people struggling with the cost-of-living crisis, food insecurity, and social isolation – as well as immediate relief. It aims to provide a sense of community, belonging, and understanding for young Londoners during tough times.

Holiday provision programmes can provide a continuing sense of harmony for adults and children from all walks of life, as they can socialise and feel a part of their community, easing the burden on one another during these difficult times. Holiday and youth clubs provide a reliable source of support for families and create opportunities for young people beyond the day-to-day provision of food and activities.

Many young people will choose to continue visiting a local Kitchen Social hub when they get older and often come back to support as volunteers or staff. Being a part of a programme like Kitchen Social as a youth volunteer is beneficial as it revives a sense of purpose amongst communities in not just tackling issues that affect them but also allowing them to develop as a person with empathy, as well as enhanced communication and organisational skills that they could then transfer in their day-to-day life.

For example, a young person who volunteers at the Triangle Adventure Playground in Lambeth is joining the staff team and securing a paid position. Their parent commented:

[I am] very pleased that my 16-year-old volunteered over the summer holidays. He has now completed his volunteer hours and showed enough enthusiasm, hard work, and ability to be a good playworker.”.

One of their fellow playworkers commented:

“It is great to have a young person that has been [attending] from the age of six come full circle – going from volunteer to becoming a staff member.”

Another success story is highlighted by a hub leader at The Rainbow Centre in Barnet:

“One of our young leaders, who has attended lunch club from its earliest days, has been helping with the daily cooking activity and has now taken over running this activity on her own.”

Having someone who has previously benefitted from the Kitchen Social programme become a staff member at a community hub allows other young people attending to feel understood, represented, and comfortable sharing their stories. We recognise and understand the importance of listening to these young people when they’re expressing their needs, sharing their ideas, and supporting projects that will help transform the lives of many people in the community during a time of economic and social struggle.

We hope Kitchen Social has a long-lasting impact in strengthening communities, bringing awareness and a spirit of unity amongst everyone from all backgrounds.

For more information about Kitchen Social and how we are supporting children to be happy, healthy, and motivated to learn – visit the Food and Wellbeing section of our website.