Leeds headteacher opens school to hungry families over Christmas break

Nathan Atkinson.
Nathan Atkinson.
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A Leeds headteacher is opening his school over the Christmas holidays to make sure pupils do not go hungry.

Nathan Atkinson, 40, has been providing breakfasts and Christmas meals at Richmond Hill Primary School despite term finishing last week.

He said he was on a mission to combat hunger and improve the concentration of his 600 pupils – 70 per cent of whom are eligible for free school meals.

He said: “When I first came to Richmond Hill it quickly became obvious that there was an issue of people coming in hungry.

“Kids would tell us that they were hungry and of the kind of food that they would be eating at home where they didn’t have any electricity.”

Mr Atkinson has teamed up with pioneering food waste initiative The Real Junk Food Project, initially installing toasters in every classroom and making “breakfast” the first lesson of the day.

There is also a pay-as-you-feel market stall outside the school for parents and now a café where youngsters can get free food every morning.

The initiative will continue in the holidays – with a full-time member of staff providing breakfasts and some Christmas meals for families, while the headteacher will restock the market stall every day in the run up to December 25.

Mr Atkinson has worked with TV chef Jamie Oliver who shares his belief that combating holiday hunger is vital, so there is help in place 52 weeks a year.

The Real Junk Food Project provides food that is past its official expiration date but is judged to be still fit for human consumption.

Mr Atkinson said: “The quality of food on offer is amazing, yet it is all food that has been deemed by some as unfit for eating.” The impact of his initiative has led to 39 other schools being signed up to the scheme.

Mr Atkinson, who has been nominated for next year’s one million US dollar Varkey Foundation Global Teacher Prize, said: “You just do what you’ve got to do, it’s our responsibility as teachers, as educators.

“I just want to empower other people. I’ve cried a few times though, I can tell you that.”

The YEP is backing the Trussell Trust charity as part of its Feed a Family campaign and is highlighting selfless examples of the battle against hunger and poverty this Christmas.


Foodbanks across Leeds are looking for food parcels containing cereal, soup, pasta, rice, pasta sauce, beans, tinned meat, tinned vegetables, tea, coffee, tinned fruit and biscuits.

Donations can be made to the Trussell Leeds South and East drop-off point at Unit 16, Ashbrooke Business Park, Parkside Lane. The Leeds North and West drop-off point is at 62a Burley Road.

For more details about individual foodbank drop-off sessions visit leedsnorthandwest.foodbank.org.uk and leedssouthandeast.foodbank.org.uk.

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