World famous artist Dizzee Rascal made a surprise visit to Bygrove Primary School, Poplar, on Thursday 21 May to volunteer and support food relief efforts for the local community.
Dizzee spent the morning packing food parcels and serving meals to children and families. The parcels contained enough food to make five meals for a family of four, with the school also preparing to send out 150 food hampers to local families every week.
Speaking about his visit, Dizzee commented: “I was given an amazing opportunity to visit and help out Kitchen Social at Bygrove Primary School in Poplar, who are providing free food, books and school equipment to kids in the local area where I grew up. Thank you to all the amazing people I met and thanks Mayor’s Fund For London for connecting the dots.”
Covid-19 has increased the number of children and young people in London at risk of ‘food insecurity’ – this means that they cannot guarantee sufficient quality or quantity of food. Some will be hungry.
In 2019, the Greater London Authority estimated that 400,000 children aged 16 or under were in food insecurity. Of these, only 196,000 qualify for the Government food voucher scheme during the pandemic, meaning at least 200,000 may go hungry. This figure is likely to be far higher because of rising unemployment and loss of self-employment income. In addition, many food banks are struggling.
Kitchen Social, a Mayor’s Fund for London programme, is the largest provider of food for children in London during the school holidays. Bygrove Primary School has been a part of the programme since 2018, and prior to the pandemic, 34% of school pupils were eligible for free school meals.
Mark Causton, Manager, Bygrove Primary School said: “Over the last two years, Bygrove Primary School has worked closely with Kitchen Social to offer breakfast, lunch and activities to hundreds of children in the school holidays, when the Covid-19 emergency struck, they were the first partner we approached for support. Our family food packs are now reaching 150 families per week, which equates to approximately 2,500 meals.”
Now children are at home, Kitchen Social has been coordinating relief efforts with its own network of community organisations (such as schools, adventure playgrounds, youth clubs) and other food charities to ensure food and supplies get to the children and families who need it most.
These organisations are working around the clock to provide packed lunches, hot food for collection and deliver food ‘happiness hampers’ to struggling families. Food insecurity affects educational attainment and children’s wellbeing, including their physical health.
Speaking about why such provision is vital at this time, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, said: “Many young people in London are paying a devastating price for Covid-19 and as a society we have a duty to help. Not all of us can volunteer like Dizzee today, but even small donations can help our young people access food and other support.”
The Mayor’s Fund for London supports 35,000 young Londoners from low income backgrounds every year. During the pandemic, it is raising money to provide vulnerable young people with access to healthy food, education and employability resources. Information on the Covid-19 emergency appeal can be found here.
Just £33 can help feed ten children for one day.