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#ThroughTogether: Mayor’s Fund for London - Healthy meals, healthy minds


The Mayor’s Fund for London (MFL) charity is London’s largest provider of holiday food and activities.


The Mayor’s Fund for London is an independent and apolitical social mobility charity which improves the life chances of over 35,000 young Londoners from low-income backgrounds every year.


The Mayor’s Fund for London target interventions in communities and schools in areas of economic disadvantage to impact the most underserved young Londoners and deliver a mix of campaign and support activities across all London boroughs.

The Fund’s three focus areas are Food and Community, Education and Skills, and Employment and Enterprise.

MFL runs Kitchen Social hubs, a network of diverse range of grassroot, trusted community organisations including youth clubs, libraries, faith groups, urban farms to provide healthy meals and positive activities during each of the 13-weeks of school holidays. The Kitchen Social programme is inclusive, young people and their families do not need to provide their eligibility to access its benefits.

Another area of support is the incredibly popular Recipe Kits initiative, providing kits for young people to take home to their families and cook together in the home. This innovative programme includes Take+Make, Create+Make and Heat+Eat (in partnership with the Felix Project and the Greater London Authority).

The MFL team sees how holiday time food insecurity and social isolation continue to affect children and young people in complex ways post-pandemic. This can be extremely damaging to their development and mental health.

John Jones, Communities Project Manager, told us: “Throughout 2022, we saw a significant increase in demand for our services as families began to navigate the cost-of-living crisis. A growing number of children were missing out on essential needs.

“With the growing knowledge and expertise around mental health in our sector, we try to provide that safety, net, support, structure and springboard alongside our community partners. Supporting young people through food is the key mechanism we use to establish that much needed strong foundation”.


Kitchen Social


Operating across London since 2017, MFL’s Kitchen Social hubs each receive a tailored package of support to help them deliver food and activities. As well as funding, there’s also training and resources, quality assurance, support with safeguarding and networking events.

Between September 2022 and August 2023, across 100 kitchen social hubs in 28 London boroughs, Kitchen Social provided 101,447 meals supporting 23,784 people.

The programme has had a significant impact on young Londoners’ wellbeing at a difficult time for many. 81% of young people were affected by food insecurity and 58% of young people were affected by poor mental health.

Evaluation of MFL’s Kitchen Social showed that:
• 97% have made new friends
• 100% feel happier
• 86% better understand how to live a healthy life
• 74% better able to achieve the goals they set

“I have always been a shy person; I find it really difficult to associate with people of my age group and even younger ones. I hated it the first time my mum suggested we join the group. I received the best training and even decided to volunteer to help children during the reading session. My confidence has improved and enjoy playing games with the younger ones.” Young Person, aged 14


Recipe boxes and ready-made meals


During the pandemic, the Mayor’s Fund for London launched Take & Make to provide nutritional, ‘low cook’, high-quality recipe-kit boxes for children and their families. And, in 2023, the Create & Make kits were introduced.

Belle Fitzroy is Food Project Co-ordinator. “We had an influx in community organisations wanting support during the pandemic where there was still a need for food provision during the holidays. We have found that the recipe boxes really energise young people and their families. They are accessible and provide dignified food support alongside access to information for families from key partners such Young Minds, Lightening Reach and Debt Free Advice. The demand continues to grow each holiday period for these recipe kits.”

All recipes were designed to be made with limited kitchen utensils to ensure cooking at home is as inclusive as possible. Every box contains instructions and skill training cards plus online video tutorials to build confidence in cooks of all ages. Importantly, the recipes continue to be developed with young people and community organisations.

“The Take & Make boxes have led to improved cooking skills, stronger family bonds, healthier eating habits, better communication, and enhanced confidence” Community leader, Camden

2022-2023 saw over 371,000 free meals distributed to 500 organisations, That’s over £1 million worth of food in the hands of families in need.


Tackling challenges of the future


The Mayor’s Fund for London Community and Food team works with around 500 grassroots organisations across London, so is in a good position to describe the challenges faced by those organisations now and in the coming year.

“Burnout is a massive issue for these organisations”, says John. “It has been an incredibly difficult few years for everyone. Around 64% of the organisations we work with say that the impact of the cost of living and the poor mental health of young people are the joint biggest challenges in the next 12 months. But almost half also say that workforce capacity and burnout is a major worry.”

One of the ways MFL supports the long-term sustainability and resilience of community organisations is via its Corporate Partnerships. Skilled volunteers are matched with community organisations to problem solve, and this adds additional value and impact to the MFL offer.

With significant reach across to so many trusted community organisations, the MFL approach is underpinned by partnerships, as a key enabler to deliver positive outcomes for young people, whilst growing the resources available for long-term social impact. With the Mayor of London as the patron and strong relationships with the Greater London Authority, whilst remaining politically independent across its governing structures, their unique position enables them to bring together multiple stakeholders.

John sees this as key. “We are actively out there listening to community leaders, young people, partners – keeping our finger on the pulse of what is happening. We elevate their voices and lived experiences, advocating to funders and policy makers to ultimately ensure young Londoners, their families and community organisations can thrive not just survive”.