City Harvest, caterer Dinner Ladies and London Rowing Club are combining forces with others, including football athletes and chefs – to deliver hundreds of free, nutritious meals to vulnerable residents in London each week.
The community kitchen initiative includes disadvantaged children who rely on free school meals. At the center is City Harvest, which sources and collects surplus food to feed the hungry. Since the lockdown, it has delivered an astounding 1.7 million meals to those in need. The initiative is being supported by a growing consortium of sports clubs, including Fulham and MK Dons.
“It’s fantastic to see this energetic partnership come together and see sportsmen and women burn calories to provide nourishment to people in real and urgent need,” Steve Winningham, Chairman at City Harvest, said. “We’re grateful to our partners and to the many restaurants, grocers, supermarkets and the general public who are helping to make their surplus food go the extra mile at this crucial time.”
Dinner Ladies, which had all of its events canceled by the coronavirus pandemic, have been fundraising to keep this project going. With each of its private home deliveries, there is an option to ‘feed a friend’ and donate to the scheme.
Volunteers are helping to cook meals two days a week, which are then delivered to community centres, hostels, mental health shelters and displaced people currently accommodated in hotels.
“The scale of the Covid-19 lockdown means that many of the real-life challenges faced by individuals in London are heightened,” said Lily Cai and Emily Plunket, the directors of Dinner Ladies Ltd. “Children, for instance, who are dependent on free school meals, are often going hungry. Homeless people with mental health issues are struggling with the bigger gulf created by social distancing. We’re trying to fill as many bellies as we can with nutritious meals.”
Rowers, footballers and others also are pitching in to help prepare meals and deliver them.
“We’re swapping our oars for wooden spoons and opening our kitchen to the Dinner Ladies who are working their magic with the ingredients kindly donated from restaurants, supermarkets and the general public, distributed by Dons Local Action Group,” said Stewart Harries of London Rowing Club.
Meat and vegetarian options are made fresh on both cooking days, based on whatever the ingredients donated are.
“It’s a bit like Ready Steady Cook, but on an industrial scale,” said Plunket.
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