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Food: Meet the indies feeding the frontline

Times may be tough for our local indies, but that’s not stopped them giving their time, talent and money to help both frontline workers and those living in food poverty. Velvet reports

Anne Beamish, founder of Indie Cambridge, talks about the vital work Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance are doing to help feed families in need during lockdown

“Sometimes all it takes is a tweet. Local councillor Alex Collis put a call out on Twitter for volunteers to help the Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance with their Easter holiday lunch scheme - a city-wide, multi-agency initiative. Lockdown had started a week before, and children that would normally have benefitted from free school meals were now stuck going without.

“My own ability to work was compromised and I've known for quite some time how unequal Cambridge is as a place to live, so felt I had to respond to Alex's request. Along with my daughter, Emma, who had just returned from University, and a rota of other volunteers, we help sort and wash mountains of donated fruit and veg - some of which is cooked into meals for families (by local chefs including Andrew Smith of The Garden Kitchen; Jack van Praag of Jack’s Gelato; and Leo Riethoff of Steak & Honour) or distributed to community fridges and food hubs around the city.

Anne Beamish and daughter Emma volunteering for Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance (35362939)
Anne Beamish and daughter Emma volunteering for Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance (35362939)

“Hundreds of food bags are also put together and then delivered to the families in need. Obviously the lockdown has meant children haven't returned to school after the Easter break, and many more families are suffering due to the economic crisis caused by the current situation, so the scheme is ongoing.

“Volunteers are always needed and if you'd like to help, you can get in touch with Alex by email at alex.collis@cambridge.gov.uk”

Kobir Ahmed runs Prana, the Indian restaurant and takeaway on Cambridge’s Mill Road. Since the pandemic began he and his team have been cooking for the frontline

“The day after the lockdown was announced I just felt I had to show my appreciation of what the doctors and nurses are going through, so I called the hospital and asked if I could come down with a load of curry in my van - and the person on the phone said yes!

“When I left the hospital I just remember the nurses being so grateful, and this was just when the crisis was starting. So when I got home I decided to launch a campaign to give access to healthy and nutritious food to the doctors, nurses, families in need and elders, for the betterment of our community.

“This led to us getting our customers involved, where every takeaway that was ordered led to a meal being donated to a key worker by Prana. Since this we have had so much support from our customers, which has led to 500 meals being donated so far - equivalent to £5,000 worth of curry!

“We have donated to Papworth, Addenbrooke’s and The Red Hen Project for the families they support, as well as to some individuals, where customers have emailed us asking us to donate because of their hard work and hardships.

NHS staff at Addenbrooke's Hospital with their delivery from Prana Indian Restaurant. Picture: Kobir Ahmed (35362942)
NHS staff at Addenbrooke's Hospital with their delivery from Prana Indian Restaurant. Picture: Kobir Ahmed (35362942)

“We have had such great feedback and have shared some of our stories on social media. We even got a handwritten letter from a nurse from the A&E department, thanking us for the gesture; it was so nice for her to take time out to write.

“Overall I just wanted to give back to the community, using Prana in the best way possible and recognising that we are all in this fight together.”

* See pranarestaurant.co.uk

Red Lodge resident Luke Stevens has raised more than £700 for the NHS and counting - by delivering eggs to his fellow villagers, dressed as a giant chicken

With his normal day job on pause due to coronavirus, motor racing team boss Luke Stevens decided to put his extra time to good use. Together with wife Claire, and recognising the need for his elderly and vulnerable neighbours to access the essentials, he set to sourcing eggs and potatoes, delivering them to doorsteps in and around Red Lodge, his home of 15 years.

Donning a bright yellow chicken suit and dubbing the enterprise Eggcellence, Luke donates 50% of profits to NHS charities. Having delivered more than 4,000 eggs to over 80 homes in Red Lodge, Gazeley, Kennett, Kentford and Mildenhall to date, he’s raised in excess of £700 to support the health service so far.

Luke Stevens, centre, has raised hundreds for the NHS with his Red Lodge egg enterprise (35363006)
Luke Stevens, centre, has raised hundreds for the NHS with his Red Lodge egg enterprise (35363006)

“Wearing the chicken suit is just a bit of fun, but it seems to brighten people's days during lockdown,” says Luke. “Red Lodge is such a fantastic community and it's great to be able to give something back, and raise money for the NHS. Some of our customers are key workers so knowing we're able to help them put food on their tables is really rewarding.”

See eggcellence.online

In Brief

Newmarket’s Jockey Club Catering, Montaz, The Chestnut Group, Bedford Lodge Hotel and British Racing School are taking turns to cook dinner for local children usually in receipt of free school meals. Once a week, more than 140 meals are currently made and delivered, via the loan of Discover Newmarket vans. The enterprise is enabled by Newmarket Covid-19 Fund, managed by Newmarket Festival, which also finances the food and toiletries for the Churches Together emergency food parcel scheme, supporting 280-plus people.

* See thenewmarketfestival.co.uk

The Chestnut Group, which owns inns across East Anglia, including The Packhorse in Moulton, has raised more than £37,000 to fund 20,000 meals for NHS and care workers. Less than a fortnight after launching the Giving Tree appeal on April 15, the Chestnut team had made and gifted 1,000 meals to hospitals, care homes and, via the Newmarket Covid-19 Fund scheme, in-need

members of the wider community.

* A donation of £25 will fund 10 free and nutritious meals. See chestnutgroup.co.uk/giving-tree

Cambscuisine is fundraising for both the The Red Hen Project, which supports children in need in the north of the city, and Cambridge Sustainable Food, which is working with Cambridge Food Poverty Alliance as well as supplying emergency food hubs and running a helpline. Purchase a £5 voucher now and the company, whose portfolio includes Smokeworks, Millworks and The Cambridge Chop House, will donate the money to the causes - plus you can redeem it at any Cambscuisine venue once doors reopen.

* To buy a voucher, visit cambscuisine.co.uk

For every box of home-baked cakes and pastries she sells, Corinne Payet of Gourmandises, Cottenham, bakes a batch for a ward at Addenbrooke’s. So far, sales of her direct-delivery boxes have enabled her to bake for teams in children’s intensive care, elderly care and neurosurgery.

* Visit gourmandises.co.uk

Good Buy

Emma Bridgewater x Marie Curie mug (35363032)
Emma Bridgewater x Marie Curie mug (35363032)

Buy this Emma Bridgewater Daffodil mug for £19.95 and £5 goes direct to Marie Curie, the charity providing care both for victims of the virus and those most vulnerable to it - emmabridgewater.co.uk

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