What's it all about?

A healthy food and social development offer for children and young people during the school holidays.

In 2016, the Mayor’s Fund identified that the issue of food insecurity among children and young people in London was exacerbated during the school holiday period.

The lack of access to free school meals over the break was seen to put a significant emotional and financial strain on families from low-income backgrounds, with detrimental social and physical impacts on young people.

Having previously developed mechanisms to address childhood food insecurity during term-time, the Mayor’s Fund felt compelled to tackle this problem.

We therefore piloted a provision scheme during the holidays, which helped community groups already working with children and young people to provide healthy food and a range of social development activities in some of London’s most challenging areas.

As a result of this activity, in January 2017 we launched Kitchen Social with the aim of raising the profile of the issue of holiday food insecurity, piloting and demonstrating an effective delivery model and lobbying for system change.

Kitchen Social works with local grass root community organisations in deprived areas of London to create a familiar environment where children, young people, their families and/or carers can attend to learn, socialise and make new friends and get a free healthy meal during the school holidays.

The programme capitalises on the existing reach of these organisations to keep young Londoners engaged, safe and learning when they are not in school  and we work with hubs as diverse as faith groups, community groups, housing associations, schools, libraries, theatres, urban farms, adventure playgrounds, sports clubs, youth centres and special needs centres.

Every hub we support to provide great quality holiday provision is different, so our services are tailored to each hub’s individual requirements and unique challenges.

To date, we have worked with 122 hubs in 24 boroughs, to deliver 2,978 activity sessions and provide 97,792 meals to 21,124 children and young people. 
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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

“I learned how to be creative with food and tried so many new dishes, like bean curry, which I would never have had before.”– Young Person

“We had an 18 year old living in a hostel and noticed she was eating the available food with appetite; this grabbed our attention and we discovered the difficult situation she was living in and her food insecurity.  We assisted her assuring she gets help through the correct services.“ – Youth Worker

“My children benefited so much, they played sports, which means they got lots of exercise whilst having fun.” – Parent

“I learned how to cook on a large scale and encouraged parents to change in terms of meals they provided at home.” – Youth Worker

“We learned it’s actually fun to eat healthy.” – Young Person

“Our Soho House teams love being a part of Kitchen Social; sharing their skills and knowledge and creating menus to help combat holiday hunger. The holiday hubs offer a fun, welcoming and rewarding opportunity and we look forward to volunteering in the future.” – Clemency Keeler, Cookhouse & House Tonic Manager

“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.”– Parent

“Many of our families are on very low income or no income who find the non-school days a real challenge to engage their children. Our clubs supports these families to get through the holiday periods. They eat with their children, interact with them and they learn together.”– Hub in Southwark

“I learned how to be creative with food and tried so many new dishes, like bean curry, which I would never have had before”– Young Person “We had an 18 year old living in a hostel and noticed she was eating the available food with appetite; this grabbed our attention and we discovered the difficult situation she was living in and her food insecurity. We assisted her assuring she gets help through the correct services“ – Youth Worker “My children benefited so much, they played sports, which means they got lots of exercise whilst having fun” – Parent “I learned how to cook on a large scale and encouraged parents to change in terms of meals they provided at home” – Youth Worker “We learned it’s actually fun to eat healthy” – Young Person

The map below highlights which community organisations are taking part in the programme.