Hackney invests £300,000 to help tackle food poverty in education

Starting this September, school children across the borough will benefit from a £300,000 targeted investment made by Hackney Council,to help tackle food poverty in education. This is in addition to the Mayor of London’s Universal Free School Meals (UFSM) programme, due to begin at the start of the new school year for children of primary school age.

The funding will go towards meeting some of the key recommendations made by the pioneering Council task force in their “Tackling Food Poverty in Education'' report, publicly launched this July. The report highlighted some of the challenges faced by Hackney families, looked at examples of best practice across the borough and across the UK, and proposed practical solutions to provide healthy and sustainable school meals to children in poverty. The report also looked at the best ways to deliver universal free school meals, and how to sustain the delivery of the programme beyond the 2023/2024 commitment made by the Mayor of London.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Education

We know the cost of living crisis is having a lasting impact on  local families that are struggling to eat and heat their homes. Just in the last five years, the number of children living in poverty in our borough has increased by more than ten percent.

Helping every family, and in particular every child in Hackney, to access affordable, healthy and sustainable meals, is a key priority for the Council, and we want to make sure that we work together with our schools and our partners to find long term, lasting solutions to support our ambition.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Education
 Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney

We are a proud Right to Food borough and committed to tackling poverty. No child should ever go hungry and eating well should not be a choice, especially when research shows that when children are fed well, their life chances grow.

This task force and their report was commissioned to explore the big issues in our school food system and come up with solutions. Our investment aims to fundamentally change how the food in our school meals is sourced, grown, cooked and consumed, ensuring that our children have access to good, healthy, affordable and sustainably-sourced food for years to come.

Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney

As part of the £300,000 investment, the Council is allocating grants to a mix of initiatives aimed at helping schools deliver cheaper, healthier and more nutritious meals to children who need them most.

Part of the funding will be used to encourage local schools to work together to implement the recommendations in the report. In September, primary schools in the borough will be invited to organise themselves in consortia, with a secondary school partner, to express interest in a one-off grant offered by the Council to help establish their own programme on how to best tackle food poverty in their settings.

Free cooking lessons for primary school children

Next school year, all Hackney primary schools will have the opportunity to send their year 3 pupils for a free half day lesson at the Hackney School of Food. Through this project, children will learn how food is produced and how to cook their own seasonal dishes from experienced food educators, in the purpose built teaching kitchen and garden.

The sessions will help build children’s knowledge and understanding of nutrition and cooking, as well as their confidence and interest in different types of food, cooking and gardening. Children are encouraged to work in teams, learn new skills and try new activities, in a safe and welcoming environment.

More information about the project can be found on the Hackney School of Food website.

Chefs in Schools

For the last five years, the Hackney charity Chefs in Schools has been working together with  local schools to help them deliver the highest quality food and food education possible.

The charity will offer specifically designed training to 100 school chefs across Hackney, with five start dates throughout the year, beginning each half term from October 2023. The 10-week training programme will cover essential know-how, school food standards and chef skills, and will be delivered through a mixture of in-person and online sessions.

Up to 8 schools will also be able to access intensive, bespoke support from Chefs in Schools to help them set up or upskill their in-house kitchen teams. The charity has already supported 11 schools in Hackney in the past, helping them transform their food culture.

Two special events will be freely available to all schools within Hackney to share best practice, advice and free resources.

Universal Free School Meals

Starting this September, the Mayor of London is ensuring all primary school children who attend state schools in London will receive free school meals (FSM) for the full academic year. This means that primary school children across Hackney will be entitled to a free, nutritious school meal next year.

Children will receive their free school meal automatically, but it’s still really important to register them in case they are eligible for pupil premium funding worth £1,455 to schools for each primary aged child. Schools will thus continue to receive pupil premium funding if eligible, even if the family chooses not to take up the FSM. It's simple to do and confidential. Parents and carers can apply easily via the Hackney Education website.