Panic buying during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic left many key workers unable to purchase even basic foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables.
Critical care nurse Dawn Bilborough’s heartbreaking plea to the public went viral; leading to an outpouring of support and sympathy from businesses and the public.
Many pubs, restaurants and food outlets who had closed their doors to customers wanted to show support for the NHS by providing cooked meals that staff could enjoy on a rare break, after their shift or take home.
This outpouring of support led to the creation of Food4Heroes.
The not-for-profit organisation brought together furloughed staff from caterers, pubs and restaurants to cook nutritious meals for NHS staff. The scheme was entirely supported by public donations.
This first phase lasted 13 weeks and achieved:
The long term impact of COVID-19
Even once the first wave eased, COVID-19 continued to put thousands of households under pressure through job losses or income reduction.
The difficulty of following a well-balanced and nutritious diet when on the poverty line is well documented. Working with the NHS also helped us understand the strong link between obesity and an increased risk of dying from COVID-19.
We were keen to continue to do our bit to alleviate the pressure on the NHS, so it felt a natural progression to start working with foodbanks. Our aim is to support the nutritional needs of foodbank users whilst also alleviating some of the stress associated with cooking using only packets and tins. In the long term we hope to expand our work to include advice and education around healthy eating.
We’re still working with pubs, restaurants and caterers but the meals are now distributed directly to foodbanks. The freshly cooked, nutritious meals supplement the non-perishable goods in food packages; giving service users the opportunity to enjoy a healthy meal that they just need to heat up at home.
Food safety is a high priority, particularly as some foodbank users are classed as extremely vulnerable. Throughout the initiative, food has been delivered in temperature-controlled vans by caterers and food courier companies.
As part of our foodbank pilot scheme, AEG kindly supplied a fridge and freezer to each of our partner foodbanks, allowing them to safely store the chilled, pre-cooked meals and freeze any that were left over to be distributed later in the week.
Since October 2020, 235 meals per week have been distributed via foodbanks as part of a pilot scheme.
With large gatherings not possible under the COVID-19 restrictions, a growing number of caterers are offering their services alongside pubs and restaurants.
As word spreads, more foodbanks are signing up in the hope that they too can provide freshly cooked nutritious meals to their service users alongside the standard non-perishable food parcels.
Caterers, food outlets, delivery companies, electrical goods suppliers or foodbanks around the country can register interest in joining the scheme by getting in touch with the Food4Heroes team.
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