Soup-er troupers

Categories: Features

Luke Mackay reflects on Borough’s seventh annual winter soup sale: a collaborative initiative with School Food Matters which sees local school children cook and sell soup at the Market to raise funds for FareShare, an organisation that redistributes surplus food to the hungry and homeless

Images: Adrian Pope

Last week I entered an inner-city state primary school in south-east London for the first time in almost 40 years. My first primary school—Christchurch on Shooters Hill near Blackheath—is a few miles away from the four that I visited on behalf of Borough Market for School Food Matters and I’m here to tell you that they still smell EXACTLY the same, a heady mix of bleach, dried paint and is that gravy? Yes. Yes, I think it is.

They don’t look the same though—my early school memories are basically in black and white, or at best sepia. Each of the four schools that I visited last week were bursting with vibrant colour, with stunning wall-adorning mosaics, vast intricate murals and really beautiful pupil-generated artwork. Every spare space is bursting with life and colour and no small amount of joy. Sorry Mrs Godfrey—I don’t remember much colour or joy in early eighties Woolwich.

I also never had the amazing opportunity to develop a recipe, market a business, set up a stall at Borough Market and then sell my product to real Borough customers. This project is organised by the wonderful charity School Food Matters, which campaigns for fresh, sustainable school meals and delivers food education programmes that get children cooking, growing and out onto farms.

School children boxing up bread

Hungry and homeless
They run various programmes throughout the year, and I was delighted to be involved—along with my friend and Borough colleague Angela Clutton—in this year’s winter soup sale. The children were charged with using surplus veg to make a soup, bake fresh bread, and market and sell their products. All of the money raised went to FareShare, an organisation that redistributes surplus food to charities that turn it into meals for the hungry and homeless.

The process—from a training day for the children at Borough Market last month, to being on a tasting panel that visited the schools to pass verdict on the soup, right through to attending the sale itself—was wonderful throughout: life-affirming, fun and incredibly rewarding.

Borough Market’s roots have long been deeply entwined in the community, particularly local schools. This project encapsulates not just those links and friendships, but also the importance of eating seasonally, cutting wastage and, of course, producing and selling delicious food. In many ways, it’s the definitive Borough project.

School children selling soup at Borough

Budding chefs and entrepreneurs
The memories that I will take away from my involvement are all about the children, aged from six to 10, from four different schools, with four different soups and a multitude of personalities. They all loved it—you could tell. Some enjoyed the creative process of coming up with a soup and chopping the vegetables, while others thought hard about marketing slogans, artwork and logistics. It was amazing to see these budding chefs and entrepreneurs over the course of a month turn an abstract idea into cold hard cash, which they proudly handed over to the charity after the sale. I feel absolutely sure that each and every child will take more interest in where their food comes from, and perhaps get into the kitchen with a veg peeler and a great big pot.

The winter soup sale raised £548, enabling FareShare to create 2,180 meals for vulnerable families. On behalf of Borough Market, I’d like to thank each and every child who worked so hard and did so brilliantly, as well as the teachers who do so much behind the scenes to make this project a success—the children are lucky to have you. Thanks to Bread Ahead for their amazing bread-making workshops and help, and to all the Borough traders and staff for their support throughout. Thanks finally to School Food Matters—Gaby and Rachel in particular for organising such a magical event—and, last but not least, Saturday Kitchen’s Michaela Bowles for her fantastic soup making classes.