Chefs and Support Needed - To Keep Serving Free Hot School Meals

UK school food charity, Chefs In Schools, is bringing together volunteers, schools and chefs to ensure vulnerable children have access to good quality, hot meals during the coronavirus crisis.

The Free School Meals 2020 campaign aims to give vulnerable children ongoing access to a hot and nutritious meal every school day - whether this is at home or for those still in school.  The need for free school meals doesn’t stop when schools close, and more children than ever are in need now.

Chefs will make hot and healthy meals in school and restaurant kitchens, which can then be distributed to children who need them. The charity is working to keep these school kitchens open where there are staffing shortages or catering firms are no longer able to provide a service.

Naomi Duncan, CEO of Chefs in Schools, said: “Hot free school food plays a vital role in ensuring that hundreds of thousands of children receive a nutritious meal every day. It is vital we maintain this access to healthy food. We’re asking people to donate money, time, skills or food to help us keep vulnerable children healthy during a tough period for everyone.

“Today (Monday) we opened our first two school kitchen hubs – these will allow us to feed children from eight nearby schools. Not just the children in school, but those at home who should get a free school meal. We’ll open more kitchens, where we identify need.

“With restaurants and cafes now closed, our habits will be temporarily changing. Can you spare the cost of a lunch, dinner, cake or coffee you would have spent going out? A small donation can make a big difference.” 

In London, over 30 schools signed up on the first day alone to act as distribution centres. Dozens of chefs and kitchen staff have come forward to volunteer their time. Restaurants are also signing up to donate their kitchens. 

The teams batch bake food such as vegetable lasagnes and soups, that can be frozen and sent out when needed. While the networks have been created to feed children, the teams will also be helping vulnerable adults in need of a hot meal.

How to get involved? 

  • Please donate what you can to help. Whether it’s £1 or £100 it will make a difference
  • Please get in touch if you’re a chef or kitchen worker who can volunteer your time or skills
  • If you’re a school or restaurant that can produce meals or distribute parcels in their local area, please sign up online now
  • Community groups and charities who know where the need is should send in their details
  • It’s quick and easy to do all of the above at chefsinschools.org.uk
  • The charity is also on hand to advise schools who are struggling to staff their kitchens. This week, chefs have been volunteering their time to fill in for staff absences. 

Naomi said: “We’ve had a great response from so many chefs and schools already. They’re helping us plan ahead and to keep children fed. It’s heartening in these uncertain and stressful times to see so many people coming together to make a difference.”

Chefs in Schools also needs thermos boxes, food containers, food packaging and logistical support. Email hello@chefsinschools.org.uk if you can help.

Chefs in Schools is also partnering with The Felix Project, Magic Breakfast and other charities to create a network of restaurants and schools for delivering food parcels.

Any food donations from retailers or wholesalers should go to Fareshare or the Felix Project.