More than £625,000 has poured into our Help The Hungry campaign in London – launched 72 hours ago with sister title the Evening Standard – amid signs that hunger is taking hold among the elderly, homeless, and vulnerable who are self-isolating to avoid Covid-19.
On Friday, Evgeny Lebedev, shareholder of The Independent, helped deliver produce from The Felix Project, the charity we’re supporting, to Compassion London, a startup cooking 1,000 meals a day for NHS staff and the homeless.
Compassion London’s founder Leon Aarts said: “We have been getting messages from people saying, ‘Could you supply me with one or two meals, I haven’t eaten in three days.’ We’ve also had cancer patients with no nearby relatives to rely on who are too afraid to leave their homes and feeling hungry and vulnerable.”
While Mr Lebedev was unloading 300kg of salmon, chicken and fresh fruit and vegetables, Dr Harshini Pindolia arrived to collect 40 meals from Compassion London for her medical colleagues. She said: “I’m working between Guy’s and St Thomas’ and Northwick Park hospitals. These meals are delicious and they are for when my colleagues come off their shift. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone at The Felix Project for feeding the NHS staff at this difficult time.”
London’s 33 boroughs have agreed to form community hubs in each local authority to distribute surplus produce to feed the vulnerable as part of a hugely ambitious plan, with similar projects to start across Britain.
As The Felix Project awaited the formation of the hubs, expected to begin this week, it continued to do what it does best: supply fresh surplus food to Londoners most in need.
Mr Lebedev said: “I arrived for the afternoon shift at the Felix depot in Park Royal and the place was buzzing. The depot had already filled up and emptied out three times in the course of the day. It’s a very impressive, slick operation.
“But it’s when you actually get out and deliver the produce that you meet inspirational people like Leon and Dr Pindolia. It’s then that it really hits you that what we are raising money for is making a massive difference. And that it’s potentially life-changing.”
Mr Aarts, a chef and philanthropist, set up his Compassion London food kitchen as an emergency response to Covid-19, just as he set up a food kitchen in the Jungle camp in Calais during the 2015 refugee crisis. “Ten days ago I awoke with this clear idea,” he said. “I thought, all these chefs with no work, all these people with no food, let’s get cooking. So I teamed up with Abigail Simon to use the kitchen that her Yum Yum Food Company normally uses to cook for nursery schools, found six chefs to volunteer and called The Felix Project to supply us.
“Today we will cook 1,000 nutritious meals – Asian salmon salad, chicken noodles, chilli con carne, chicken dahl and a vegetarian tagine – and half of it will go to NHS staff at Northwick Park Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital and the other half to the homeless who are being put up at hotels. It’s quite an operation, but without Felix, who supply 70 per cent of our produce, we couldn’t do it.”
The Independent’s Help The Hungry campaign will support more operations just like this – but also aims to highlight how you can help in your area, with money, food donations or volunteering. The campaign has been backed by politicians including Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, and Labour MP Jess Philips.
New donations to our campaign include: £75,000 from the Eranda Rothschild Foundation and the Quintessentially Foundation; £40,000 from the Ocado Foundation; £25,000 from meal-kit company Hello Fresh; and an undisclosed, substantial amount from Temasek, the investment holding company owned by the government of Singapore. It also includes more than £14,000 generously donated from over 300 members of the public on our Virginmoneygiving page. Celebrities who retweeted our appeal include Emma Watson, Rob Brydon, Jimmy Carr, Rita Ora, Eddie Izzard and David Walliams.
Benoit Valentin, senior managing director of Temasek in Europe, said: “This appeal is the right intervention at the right time. Our staff volunteer with The Felix Project and it is inspiring for us to see the Standard, Felix and local communities coming together to rise to the challenge of our lifetime.”
Sarah Emerson, from the Ocado Foundation, said: “We couldn’t be prouder to donate to the Standard’s appeal. The Felix Project, which Ocado has supplied from day one, have stepped up to the plate, working through the London Alliance to reach every person in desperate need.”
Sam Day, of Hello Fresh, which supplies Felix with surplus food, said: “Getting food to those who need it most is now more important than ever. We will be matching the Evening Standard’s reader donations with up to £25,000 to support this vital cause.”