Food sector provides vital support to frontline workers and vulnerable people

03 May 2020, 12:11 PM
  • Brands, producers, distributors and chefs come together to help the community at large
Food sector provides vital support to frontline workers and vulnerable people

In the wake of the Coronavirus in the UK, the sense of community and solidarity has been tremendous. As people stay home to save lives, companies and individuals alike have been showing their gratitude for those on the frontline, from the Clap for our Carers initiative, to children’s rainbow drawings that have adorned windows up and down the nation.

The fine food and drinks industry has been doing its part, too, by offering complimentary foodstuffs to those who are working tirelessly to keep our communities safe, as well vulnerable people who need support now more than ever.

Nourishing and nutritious
Chefs on furlough are putting their talents to good use, cooking healthy, restaurant-quality meals for those in need. Chefs like Sally Abe (head chef of Michelin-starred Harwood Arms) and her husband, Matt Abe (Restaurant Gordon Ramsey) are creating hundreds of meals every day for the homeless, elderly and NHS. It’s part of the Hospitality for Heroes initiative, a non-profit that aims to provide free, nutritious meals for those in need whilst keeping the hospitality industry alive. To date, the initiative has already delivered nearly 15,000 meals and raised over £30,000 to support frontline workers.

Sweet surprises
Helping to reduce food waste while supporting those in need, juice brand innocent has launched Re-Route The Fruit. Rather than allowing its drinks, which have a limited shelf life, to be thrown away, the company is donating unpurchased bottles to charities that support the vulnerable and frontline workers.

The campaign has already seen 220,000 drinks donated, including 120,000 beverages to charities and foodbanks through the giving platform Neighbourly; over 98,000 bottles to hospitals, schools, care homes and the Royal Mail; and around 4,000 drinks to individuals in the community. With children out of school, innocent is also providing packs of kids’ smoothies to disadvantaged students who are eligible for the Free School Meals programme.

“While we regularly donate to charities and foodbanks, we are increasing our efforts during this time to make sure no surplus stock goes to waste,” Suraj Gangani, head of refreshment marketing at innocent drinks, said. “We’re hoping to reach hundreds of thousands of people through this initiative alone.

“We are so appreciative of the heroes working hard in key roles during this pandemic, and it’s important for us to do our part. The Re-Route The Fruit campaign allows us to use our healthy drinks as a way to give help to those who need it, and hopefully at the same time put a smile on people’s faces during this tough phase.”

Also keen to ensure their stock didn’t go to waste – and, of course, to put a smile on people’s faces – Shropshire-based Original Biscuit Bakers donated thousands of its artisan gingerbread biscuits to NHS workers, the homeless and those in food poverty.

Meanwhile, plant-based food service Pollen + Grace has donated over 2,000 meals to NHS staff across London, who all the more so require fresh, nutritious meals during this testing time. The brand also has a partnership with The Felix Project to collect their surplus products, and donate them to charities and those in need.

Feeding the masses
Welsh beef jerky snacks manufacturer Trailhead Fine Foods has also shown its support for frontline healthcare workers across Wales and England.

The Welshpool-based company donated over 2,000 packs of its award-winning Get Jerky branded snacks to the Feed the Frontline campaign, which supplies quality food to healthcare staff caring for Coronavirus patients.

“Feed the Frontline enables frontline staff and other unpaid volunteers to concentrate their efforts on caring for gravely ill patients under the most challenging conditions they have ever known, without the need to worry about buying supplies and preparing meals,” a spokesman for Feed the Frontline said.

“As a grassroot project, we rely solely on donations. It’s great to have an independent Welsh producer on board – Trailhead Fine Foods’ donation helped us immensely as we were able to support even more frontline staff.

“Trailhead was the first food producer that helped us out, and I’m positive they encouraged others to support our frontline staff.”

In spite of the impact the Coronavirus lockdown is having on his own business, Adrian Nichols, director of Elmley Sales and Marketing Ltd, a distributor for The Truckle Cheese Company, is keen to do his part for frontline support workers and the vulnerable.

Despite the fact that Adrian is set to lose around 80% of his income this year due to the pandemic, he says it’s more important now than ever for businesses to pull together and help provide food for the community at large.

The Truckle Cheese Company has already donated £5,000 worth of cheese to NHS hospitals, support hospitals and key workers in several counties across the UK. The company is also offering a 20% discount for NHS staff working on the frontline. Locally, it has donated cheese to Evesham’s food bank and Offenham’s Meals on Wheels service for the elderly and the vulnerable, whilst also donating cheese to a local restaurant that was providing hot meals for the homeless.

“Even in financially challenging times, it’s not just about sales and orders – it’s about getting food out to communities, and we’re proud to be making a difference by keeping people sustained where others can’t,” Adrian said.

“Every day, I’m hearing that foodbanks are seeing a rise in referrals and a huge hike in demand compared to last year. Donations are decreasing, just as more people are coming to them for the first time, following reduced income and, in some cases, job losses. It’s a real struggle to provide for everyone, and we want to help.

“It’s also about boosting morale for those who are battling to save lives on the frontline. After a long and stressful shift, we hope they can relax and unwind with a bit of cheese and a glass of their favourite tipple!”

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