JB Gill and TJ Dobson launch Kitchen Social

16th January 2017

Kitchen Social is our new campaign to tackle the growing problem of holiday hunger amongst the capital’s poorest school children. The campaign launched with the support of farmer and ex JLS member, JB Gill and youth board member, and Junior Masterchef Finalist, TJ Dobson.

Statistics suggest that as many as 500,000 London children struggle for food during the school holidays, so we are now looking to raise £1m in a bid to fund holiday meal clubs across the capital to help end the hunger and social isolation that are the grim reality for many young Londoners.

General Assembly member Fiona Twycross visits Flashpoint Centre Play in Chelsea, West London, where the Mayor’s Fund for London have initiated a summer holiday pilot scheme with a focus on healthy balanced meals that adhere to the food school standards. Thursday, 25th August 2016. Picture by Ben Stevens

Over the next three years the Kitchen Social project will identify and support 330 community organisations across London to create a healthy food and social development offer during the school holidays. Additional benefits will include learning about healthy eating, skills development, social inclusion, identification of children and young people in need and the development of staff, volunteers and local capacity. To find out more and get involved, click here.

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The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “It is unacceptable for any child in our great city to ever experience hunger or social isolation. Equally, it is not right that in a city as rich as ours, some parents are having to skip meals themselves to feed their children as they cannot afford a decent meal. Preventing young Londoners from going hungry during the holidays is a challenge that can be overcome by bringing together communities across the capital to look out for some of the city’s most disadvantaged children. I welcome the Kitchen Social programme, which will help to tackle food inequality and provide London’s youngsters with healthy meals over the holidays, allowing them to flourish upon their return to school”.

Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement, Matthew Ryder, said: “The Mayor’s Fund for London’s Kitchen Social programme will bring together community groups, boroughs, businesses, foundations, charities and individuals to ensure the city’s young people do not go hungry or feel alone over the school holidays. Crucially, it will also put mental and physical well-being and social integration at the heart of its work, ensuring young Londoners are equipped with the skills and good health they need to get ahead.”

Matthew Patten, Mayor’s Fund for London Chief Executive said: “Teachers report malnourished children returning to school after the holidays having fallen behind compared to their peers. Many young people will never claw back this learning and health disadvantage to fulfil their potential. Research tells us that families and communities are affected too. Some parents are skipping meals to feed their children and increased household fuel and food bills cause stress and uncertainty. This can lead to debt, poor diet and social isolation.”

In a bid to kick-start the campaign and raise the £1m needed to fund holiday club provision, we are calling on the capital’s businesses and organisations to get involved – either by donating food, money, time or expertise or even facilities in which to hold the clubs.

Matthew Patten said: “We’ve learnt a lot over the past 4 years, working with schools to provide healthy breakfasts for hungry children in some of London’s most disadvantaged areas. The long-fought battle to secure statutory support for school food has been won. But that doesn’t help hungry young Londoners, like the 200,000 children entitled to free school meals, through the 170 days of holiday every year.”

The Kitchen Social campaign follows a pilot programme last year that worked with local community groups in seven boroughs to provide healthy meals and a range of social development activities during the holidays. As well as food and social activities, children learnt new skills such as cooking and budgeting. In some cases, safeguarding issues were highlighted and addressed. Local organisations benefited too, developing new capacity, capability and employment, better enabling them to respond to the issues they face in their communities.

Rosie Boycott, Chair of the London Food Board said: “There is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence to suggest that many children simply do not get a nutritious meal during the school holidays and many are going hungry altogether. It can’t be acceptable that we acknowledge the need for free school meals, but ignore the plight of hungry children when they are not in school.

“The pilot project run by the Mayor’s Fund last year has proved that we can make a difference and I’m working with Matthew and his team to ensure Kitchen Social gets the support it needs and deserves.”

TV GP, Dr Ellie Cannon, has also thrown her weight behind the Kitchen Social campaign. She understands the need for good, regular nutrition for growing children and young people – and the importance of regular social interaction to keep their minds healthy too.

Dr Ellie Cannon said: “I was shocked by the statistics around holiday hunger, and surprised that there isn’t a cohesive, UK policy. It’s so important for children to have easy access to nutritious food throughout the year, not only in term-time, if they are to meet growth targets and not suffer any long-term effects of malnutrition. London has some of the poorest boroughs in the country, so it makes sense for there to be London-wide provision of school holiday food clubs.”

JB Gill, ex JLS boyband member turned farmer, said: “In London, the media has a very important part to play in helping us to raise awareness of the holiday hunger issue.”

For more details about holiday hunger and what can be done to solve it, see the Mayor’s Fund for London report: Hunger: The Inconvenient Truth, which brings together a wealth of respected research and insight into the issue, not only in London, but also around the UK.

To get find out more and get involved, visit our get involved page or call us on 020 7983 4051.