Jack Monroe, 26, is a single mother whose delicious recipes, published online, are so nutritious and thrifty that they are being handed out by food banks as examples of how to manage on next to nothing.
Jack Monroe was born in Southend on Sea, Essex, in 1988. She attended Westcliff High School For Girls in Essex, gaining 4 and a half A*-C GCSEs. She left at the age of 16 and worked full time in ‘odd jobs’, retail and coffee shops and waitressing, before joining Essex County Fire and Rescue Service in 2007 to work in their control room. She left in November 2011, unable to work the night shifts as a single parent to a then 20 month old son.
Jack started writing her blog, A Girl Called Jack, in February 2012, in response to a local councillor who claimed that ‘druggies, drunks and single mums are ruining the High Street.’ What started as a local politics blog developed into budget food and recipes, which were picked up with interest by the national press as she detailed living with her son on a food budget of just £10 a week. She describes the Daily Telegraph article by Xanthe Clay, ‘My 49p Lunch With A Girl Called Jack’, as the moment that changed her life.
Jack had a keen interest in cooking at school, but in her own words, ‘apart from one D grade GCSE at the age of 16, I’ve never really had any formal food education. I just cook stuff, eat stuff and write about stuff.’
Her first cookbook, A Girl Called Jack, was published by Michael Joseph at Penguin in February 2014, and went straight to the top of the paperback charts. Her second cookbook, also published by Penguin, is due out in October 2014.
Jack is an active campaigner, fronting a petition with Unite, The Trussell Trust and The Mirror demanding politicians debate the causes of foodbank use and hunger in Britain. Within 4 days the petition had secured 100,000 signatures, and the debate was held in the House Of Commons three weeks later. She is an ambassador for Oxfam, from being a case study in their April 2013 report ‘Walking The Breadline’, to travelling to Tanzania to learn about women and agriculture.
Jack is an out lesbian woman, and in 2014 was listed in The Independent On Sunday’s Pink List at number 19. She has appeared on the front cover of Diva magazine, and contributed to several issues. She came out publicly, in an article in the Huffington Post on London Pride day in 2013.
Jack writes a weekly recipe column for The Guardian, and regularly contributes as a political journalist to The Mirror, The Independent and The Guardian. She is a regular on the Sky News sofa, Channel 4 and BBC radio, commenting on food, politics, and current affairs. She recently went busking with Billy Bragg as part of The Guardian’s ‘Do Something’ series.
She won the Fortnum and Mason Food and Drink Award for ‘inspiring people to enjoy, experiment and explore food’, the Red Magazine ‘Hot Women’ award for her blog, and the YMCAs ‘Courage And Inspiration’ award. She also featured in a Sainsburys television campaign in January 2014.
Jack lives in West London, with her partner and their two children.
“She is a breath of fresh air in the cooking world” – Nigel Slater.
“Every now and then a food writer with a fresh and authentic voice comes along, and Jack Monroe is that rare find. Her recipes are founded on the ideal of eating well on a budget, but there is nothing drab about her food: it’s as vibrant as her voice; and A Girl Called Jack is full of food with bold flavour, recipes that beg to become part of your daily repertoire. This is a book with charm and brio, and a true helpmeet in the kitchen.” – Nigella Lawson.
“Compelling, if sobering reading.” – Lisa Markwell, The Independent on Sunday.
“A cross between Yvette Cooper and Delia Smith, with tattoos.” – Richard Littlejohn, The Daily Mail.