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  • 6 minutes
  • 31/08/2023

Made in Hackney: A plant-based, community-driven approach to food access

Operating at the intersection of food insecurity, health, climate change, and community cohesion, Made in Hackney has built a unique model for delivering Social Value.

In 2012, Made in Hackney appeared on the scene as the UK’s first fully vegan community cookery school and charity. Aiming to improve access to nutritious, tasty plant-based food and teach cultivation and cooking skills, its work also addresses wider global challenges like climate change and poor health.   

A number of Social Value Portal’s staff members recently volunteered with Made in Hackney. Today, we will look at why Made in Hackney is such a unique Social Value initiative, and how our volunteers are helping them tackle key social, economic, and environmental challenges.   

Addressing global problems, locally 

Made in Hackney was founded to address common community health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, as well as the wider issue of food insecurity. It does this by running classes which empower locals to grow, cook, and eat more plants, and delivering free, culturally diverse plant-based meals. 

Made in Hackney works at the intersection of several key areas of Social Value: 

  • Food access 
  • Public health 
  • Climate and environment 
  • Community cohesion 

Research has highlighted the health benefits of plant-based diets, as well as their potential to reduce carbon footprints. By providing access to plant-based food and educating locals on how to make it, Made in Hackney is able to simultaneously tackle food insecurity and help to improve public health.  

The organisation also tackles food waste, moving around 20 tonnes of surplus food per year to food banks and other community centres. Its programmes bring local people together and create opportunities for the community to connect. 

Camille Yerles, Senior Social Value Advisor at Social Value Portal, was struck by Made in Hackney’s community-focused approach while volunteering in their kitchen. She commented: 

Made in Hackney is local to me, and I really like that it goes beyond delivering food. They really think about different dietary requirements and nutrition. They also do surveys to make sure they are offering culturally diverse meals. The team create a real sense of homeliness and show that plant-based food can be accessible and affordable for all. 

Learn more about Made in Hackney’s volunteering opportunities. 

Driving a plant-based social transformation  

Made in Hackney has made remarkable strides since its inception, upskilling more than 400,000 individuals through its classes, and delivering around 190,00 free meals. 

Made in Hackney has also continued to launch new initiatives, with 2021 marking the launch of Plant Futures, which helps organisations, businesses, and society at large transition to plant-centred diets.  

This was followed with the 2022 launch of Global Plant Kitchens, an international programme supporting the creation of vegan cookery school around the world.


One of Made in Hackney's plant-based meal.
One of Made in Hackney’s plant-based shepherd’s pies.

Helping the community during the Covid-19 pandemic 

Made in Hackney has proved versatile and resilient in changing circumstances. When the Covid-19 pandemic it struck, Made in Hackney’s in-person classes became nonviable, while new food access challenges immediately began to affect the community.  

The charity responded fast, raising around £50,000 within a few days, and establishing a fully functioning food delivery service within 11 days. At the peak of the crisis, Made in Hackney was providing 500 meals a day across the borough, while also running online classes and telephone outreach.  

These activities provided truly essential support to countless families across the borough – and continue to do so. Khin Tye, Volunteering Manager at Made in Hackney, commented:  

Food access became a huge challenge during lockdown. In fact, one family we delivered to hadn’t eaten for two days – our cyclist was the first friendly face they had seen. We have also retained a portion of those that we supported during the pandemic. Some are sight-impaired, have mobility challenges, or experience other barriers to food access, especially now with the rising cost of living.  

Khin Tye, Volunteering Manager at Made in Hackney

Rosie Kay, Social Value Advisor at Social Value Portal, noted that Made in Hackney’s focus on helping those struggling to access food was part of the reason she wanted to get involved. She said:

My family experienced a degree of food insecurity during the Covid-19 pandemic. Made in Hackney stood out to me for that reason – I wanted my volunteering to help others who were experiencing this. When I was there, I saw that there was a big emphasis on making food that people will genuinely enjoy.

Find out how you can donate to Made in Hackney.  

Why Social Value Portal’s volunteers lent a hand  

The charity offers various volunteering opportunities, both for individuals and those attached to other organisations. These include running the meal service, calling food recipients for feedback, helping with the cookery school, and more.  

Social Value Portal’s volunteers have helped with meal preparation and in the kitchen, using the business’s volunteering day allowance. Khin commented: 

During the pandemic, lots of people had more time to volunteer, but many of those volunteers are now back in full time work. Organisations like Social Value Portal have filled the gap by allowing their people to volunteer during business hours. Social Value Portal has been great at meeting our needs – for instance, by spreading smaller groups across different days so our relatively small kitchen doesn’t become too full.

Social Value Portal's volunteers at Made in Hackney.
A Social Value Portal volunteer helping the Made in Hackney team.

How to help support charities like Made in Hackney  

We asked Khin how organisations can start supporting Made in Hackney, or other charities that deliver Social Value. She highlighted a few areas: 

Volunteering is key; it brings new skills, fresh ideas, and greater diversity to the table. Donations are another essential means of providing support, as is engaging with paid services, like our classes. I also find that when an organisation streamlines its volunteering activities through a single line of communication, it can greatly reduce the administrative work required at both ends, allowing us to do more and better work together.

Looking to take your first Social Value steps? 

As our CEO recently noted, donating to and volunteering with charities is an excellent way to make good go further. The next step is to start measuring and managing the total amount of good your organisation is delivering. 

To learn more about Social Value and how your organisation can embed it throughout your operations, explore our free Social Value 101 Toolkit today