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Chefs in Schools: Shortlisted Charity Food Campaigner of the Year 2020

About Chefs in Schools

Chefs in Schools was founded in June 2018 to improve the health of children through better food and food education in schools, something that Caroline Walker was very passionate about. They do this by training chefs and kitchen teams to run school kitchens.  The chefs and school cooks make amazing food from scratch, and they pass on their passion for fresh food and the skills for children to make it for themselves.

In collaboration with the LEAP Federation, they also run the Hackney School of Food which is a community garden and cookery school where children, young people and their families from across London are learning to grow their own produce and cook affordable, healthy and balanced meals. They built the cookery school in 2020, in a disused building in the heart of Kings Park, one of the most deprived council wards in the country.  Here the children and the community come together to learn about the complete food lifecycle, from the productive kitchen garden, orchard, beehives to the main kitchen, an outdoor wood-fired oven and firepit.

Why Chefs in Schools was nominated

Chefs in Schools is transforming schools within inner London by improving the quality of food that children enjoy each day.  Their work is targeted in London boroughs with higher levels of socio-economic deprivation and more than double the national average level of pupils in receipt of pupil premium.  Their programme is unique in focusing on reskilling an underinvested workforce and driving through improvements in food, which lead to improved immediate and long-term health outcomes.

Chefs in Schools usually operate within schools, however from the first day of school closures during the first national Covid-19 lockdown, whilst the National Voucher Scheme and many caterers weren’t able to respond, Chefs in School worked quickly with LEAP to set up a nutritious weekly food provision.  The project quickly scaled up, taking on furloughed chefs as volunteers, using surplus produce from Fareshare and the Felix Project to extend the hamper provision to feed a family of four.  Since March, the operation has grown weekly and included restaurant chains opening their kitchens to add food. Chefs in School were providing more than 20,000 meals per week to be distributed by volunteers, with over 300,000 meals by the end of the summer holidays.

Throughout the crisis, Chefs in Schools have also contributed to lobbying and supporting the government, contributing to the DEFRA’s Food Vulnerability Stakeholder Group. They have also developed resources to assist schools in continuing to provide nutritious food, including a joint publication of a guide to safely reopen school kitchens, published by the Department for Education. They also produced a nutritionally analysed guide to a weekly provision for children entitled to free school meals who can’t attend school, published in the National Food Strategy.  In addition, they co-hosted webinars to inspire the provision of hot food when schools returned in September, attended by hundreds of school caterers and local authorities.

What Chefs in Schools have to say

“We’re delighted to be shortlisted for this award. Our charity works to improve child health by transforming school food where needed. We train school kitchen teams to make all meals from scratch – including sauces and breads. We also campaign to change the perception of how school food should be.” Naomi Duncan, Chief Executive at Chefs in Schools

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