Jack Monroe (born 17 March 1988) is a British food writer, journalist and activist known for campaigning on poverty issues, particularly hunger relief. Monroe initially rose to prominence for writing a blog titled A Girl Called Jack (now renamed Cooking on a Bootstrap), and has since written for publications such as The Echo, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and The New Yorker, as well as publishing several cookbooks focusing on "austerity recipes" and meals which can be made on a tight budget.
Monroe was born in Southend-on-Sea in 1988, to David Hadjicostas MBE, and Evelyn (née Beatty) Hadjicostas, a former nurse. Her father is of Greek-Cypriot heritage; he was in the British Army for seven years and in the fire service for 30 years. He was awarded an MBE in 2007 Birthday Honours for services to children and families. Monroe has three siblings.
Described as coming from a working-class background, Monroe passed the 11-plus examinations and attended Westcliff High School for Girls, a grammar school in Westcliff-on-Sea, before leaving at age 16, "bullied and disillusioned", with insufficient GCSEs to progress to A-level (she sat 7 and passed 4 and a half of them).
Monroe left home and worked in a chip shop, before taking a job as a call handler for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. After having a child, she was unable to arrange the work around childcare responsibilities, and was unable to negotiate adjustments to her working pattern to make continued employment feasible. Monroe resigned the post after serving between 2007 and 2011. After leaving the fire service, Monroe began going by the forename Jack – being short for "Jack of all trades". She spent the following 18 months on benefits and looking for work, and moved from relative affluence to poverty and financial hardship.
Monroe came to prominence in the media through writing the blog A Girl Called Jack, sharing cheap recipes created as a single parent with a young child, and aiming to provide family meals for less than £10 per week. In December 2015, the blog was renamed as Cooking on a Bootstrap.
In 2012, Monroe became a weekly columnist for The Echo, a south Essex daily newspaper, and in February 2013, was taken on by the same as a trainee reporter – the timing was fortunate, as she was having difficulty affording nursery fees. Monroe was later retained as an unpaid columnist for The Huffington Post, before signing a publishing deal with Penguin Group. The book deal, reported as worth £25,000, resulted in housing benefit being cut off and Monroe came close to being evicted, which led to moving into cheaper accommodation. Despite working every day, she was unable to make ends meet. By January 2014, finances had improved, and Monroe was able to move into a small two-bedroom flat with her son.
Monroe formerly wrote a twice-monthly food and recipe column for The Guardian and additionally contributed a number of political columns, as well as being featured in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Monroe has written several budget cooking recipe books.
In April 2020 it was announced that Monroe would co-host Daily Kitchen Live on BBC One alongside Matt Tebbutt. The programme, made in response to issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, offered tips and guidance to families struggling with limited resources, and aired daily for a two week period that commenced on 14 April 2020.
Campaigning and politics
Monroe has been an active campaigner for a number of causes in the UK, particularly those concerned with poverty and hunger, campaigning alongside organisations such as Unite, The Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group and Oxfam.
In 2013, Monroe appeared in a six-week advertising campaign for Sainsbury's supermarket. Monroe accepted the equivalent of the living wage for the six weeks that the campaign ran and donated the remainder of the fee to charities including a food bank.
Monroe is a member of the Labour Party and appeared in a Labour campaign video in October 2013. She had left the party in March 2015 after disagreeing with its rhetoric on immigration, and became a member of the Green Party of England and Wales. In April 2016, Monroe appeared online supporting the Women's Equality Party.
In November 2014, Monroe said on Twitter that David Cameron "uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS to his friends". The Daily Mail journalist Sarah Vine criticised Monroe for using the death of Cameron's son for political purposes and "choosing" a life of poverty. The Independent described this as a "caustic attack", and Monroe replied on Twitter that the column was "homophobic, transphobic, deadnaming [and] ignorant".
In 2015, Monroe won the Women of the Future Award in the media category. Monroe was "surprised", saying "I'm not sure I'll even be a woman in the future". The award was won after Monroe came out as non-binary, which created some controversy. The subsequent "gender debate" angered Monroe and she questioned the headlines of some newspapers, saying "Because of my trans identity, I'm attacked for accepting a real woman's award."
In the 2017 United Kingdom general election, Monroe intended to stand in Southend West as a candidate for the National Health Action Party, but withdrew after receiving death threats and because of health problems caused by arthritis.
Speaking in 2014, Monroe described life as having "changed beyond recognition", but said that she is still affected by her experience of poverty. The University of Essex announced in May 2015 that it would be awarding Monroe an honorary degree.
Monroe came out as non-binary in October 2015, and goes by they/them and she/her pronouns. She has said she did not change her name to Jack while still working at the fire service, out of concern over "the potential for deadnaming and bullying in a not-particularly-tolerant organisation. Not a great place to be gay, let alone genderqueer." She also did not take part in a fire-service passing out ceremony, because protocol would have required her to wear a skirt. During this period, Monroe also had a brief relationship with a close male friend which resulted in a son. She also had a long-term relationship with a woman which ended shortly after Monroe told her partner she was considering a mastectomy.
Monroe had previously identified as a cisgender lesbian, and prior to coming out as non-binary was careful to downplay any suggestions of gender ambiguity: in a February 2014 interview, she described herself as a "lefty, liberal, lezzer cook" who had reassured her parents that she identified as female. "I was like, no, I'm a little bit tomboyish, a little bit butch. But I have no immediate plans to transition."
In 2017, Monroe revealed she was suffering from acute arthritis, citing the affliction as a partial cause for her suspending her campaign for candidacy in the National Health Action Party. In January 2019, Monroe stated that she was recovering from alcoholism, discussing how drinking had affected her work and personal life. Later that month, Monroe announced her engagement to her partner, Louisa Compton.
In 2017, Monroe won a libel case against newspaper columnist and television personality Katie Hopkins, after Hopkins suggested on Twitter that Monroe was supportive of vandalism of a war memorial, having confused Monroe with journalist Laurie Penny. Instead of apologising, Hopkins then labelled Monroe "social anthrax". The High Court awarded Monroe £24,000 in damages plus costs.
- A Girl Called Jack: 100 delicious budget recipes (Michael Joseph, 2014) ISBN 9780718178949
- A Year in 120 Recipes (Michael Joseph, 2014) ISBN 9780718179960
- Cooking on a Bootstrap: Over 100 simple, budget recipes (Bluebird, 2018) ISBN 9781509831111
- Tin Can Cook: 75 Simple Store-cupboard Recipes (Bluebird, 2019) ISBN 9781529015287
- Vegan (ish): 100 simple, budget recipes that don't cost the earth (Bluebird, 2019) ISBN 9781529005080
- Good Food for Bad Days: What to Make When You're Feeling Blue (Bluebird, 2020) ISBN 9781529028188
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For anyone who needs to hear this today, I am a fully paid up member of the Labour Party and have been for quite some time now. I voted Labour at every election except 2015.Missing or empty
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