Good News Story: Women take the lead in responding to child food insecurity during COVID-19

We are continuing our series of news features of  women in the food industry who are putting their skills and experience to great use by helping others in this challenging time.  We spoke to Clara Widdison, Head of Social Inclusion at The Mayor’s Fund for London and she told us about a number of the women staff and volunteers running emergency hubs for children across London.

Bygrove Primary School

How did the lockdown announcement affect you and your business?

We are London’s largest holiday provision provider and we are used to engaging children outside of school with enriching activities and nutritious meals. Although this crisis isn’t a school holiday, and our children can’t meet together to socialise as they normally do, we knew that we were well placed to respond. We now have 28 emergency hubs responding to children’s needs across London. They are delivering food, books, art supplies and many other things to ensure children remain healthy, learning and having fun.

Candice from Loughborough Community Centre

Candice from Loughborough Community Centre, Max Roach Centre (pictured above) has been leading the response to children in food insecurity in one of the most deprived communities in London. She is an absolute powerhouse.

What motivated you to take positive action?

Kitchen Social, a Mayor’s Fund for London programme, is a children’s charity tackling some of the biggest issues affecting young people’s futures. We knew that this crisis would impact the most disadvantaged and vulnerable so we jumped into action to do our part to support children in a variety of ways.

Happiness Hampers being delivered by Kitchen Social

What support have you got from other suppliers & the hospitality industry?

A new partnership which has been at the heart of our response is with Thomas Franks’, a school food caterer. Frank Bothwell, their founder, has led the organisation to develop an incredible response to the food access challenge facing low income families. They have worked incredibly hard to get great quality food to children across London through Kitchen Social hubs.

We have had such an amazing response from the hospitality industry including The Ned, Benugo and Waitrose. We work with these organisations every school holiday and they remain committed to supporting children in London and beyond. We have also been working with City Harvest, The Felix Project and FareShare to help our hubs access brilliant quality surplus food. We are particularly grateful to Hej Coffee and Camden Town Brewery who have helped us deliver food across London.

Kitchen Social VolunteersKitchen Social Volunteers delivering food

What are your hopes for your future?

Children are the most important people in our society and should never be placed at risk, particularly by the government. We campaign for children to have a legal right to food and for their nutrition to be protected every day so that they can thrive in every sense. We hope that the spotlight that this crisis has shone on the issue of food insecurity gives politicians, policymakers and the general public the motivation to prioritise children’s needs.

Food being prepared by Colombo Centre for families in SouthwarkFood being prepared by Colombo Centre for families in Southwark

Francesca Silvester (pictured above), is Islington Play Association’s Play and Learning Manager. She manages Timbuktu Adventure Playground. Throughout the lockdown she has been giving out food packages of surplus food to local families. She has also distributed craft packs. Wednesdays are her favourite day because she loves seeing the families and children and making sure they have food at home.

Do you have a message to share with other women in the food industry?

Whatever role you have, in any organisation and in any sector and in any part of the country, you too can be a champion of getting great quality food to those in our society who need it the most. We have a huge movement of people working to end food insecurity – join us.

Look out for more good news stories as we cover how women are doing good with food during the lockdown and beyond. Be the first to hear by signing up to our newsletter.

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