On the 19th of March, we had a personal appeal from a friend at St George’s Hospital who has worked there for over 23 years. She is much loved and is an inspirational woman who regularly raises money for a variety of charities. In her appeal, she asked for a box of biscuits and things for the nurses to snack on to help boost morale – within 24 hours, she had amassed three large bin bags of goodies. That’s when we spoke to her and said we would try and help provide some food – other than chocolates!
So much has happened since then – it’s difficult to put into words as we have been inundated with so much community spirit and kindness – but most importantly, we were able to deliver regular meals to exhausted frontline staff who weren’t able to buy provisions as supermarkets were bare or they were just too physically or emotionally exhausted to think about cooking a meal. By developing a network of local suppliers, restaurants and caterers (our ‘backbone supplier’ was Mustard Foods, a family-run business who were supplying over 32 UK restaurant chains including Leon with 30 tonnes of food a week – until lockdown devastated their supply chain), we began to supply them with hot food on a daily basis.
Since launching – we have been able to cut through the red tape and have helped to deliver not only hot meals to where they were needed most, but much needed PPE when supplies dwindled, allowed patients to see loved ones by getting tablets donated to critical wards, developed bespoke name-labels so NHS staff could identify each other behind their layers of protective clothing, delivered 500 goody bags, and early on (when supermarket shelves were bare) we helped front line staff by providing basic foods stuffs like pasta, milk, bread, eggs, sanitary goods and toilet rolls so they didn’t need to go shopping! We have run numerous fundraising events and enjoyed the support of a number of celebrities who helped deliver food and raise our profile – Guy Henry (Holby City), Jason Flemyng (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), Thomas Frake (Masterchef Champion 2020), and Imogen Thomas (Welsh Model).
When we had surplus, and once the number of critically ill Covid patients subsided, we extended our reach to include the distribution of meals to those more vulnerable members of the community who have been adversely affected by the pandemic.
I should add that we also forwarded offers of help to relevant community groups including the Home Cook Army and Tooting Community Kitchen (who have done a superb job in providing meals to frontline staff, the elderly and vulnerable individuals across SW London) and South London Scrubbers (who have supplied home sewn scrubs to staff at St George’s, Kings College and Lewisham hospitals); a number of our core team are affiliated to the Battersea Ironsides Sports Club (through junior rugby) and have supported us with their personal commitment and expertise from the outset; and Jus Fine Food, who have been instrumental in helping set up our support of the homeless and vulnerable.
To date, with your help, Critical NHS has raised over £240,000 from public/private donations, which has allowed us to co-ordinate and deliver over 115,500 meals to front line staff at 15 hospitals and numerous community initiatives, whilst providing a much-needed lifeline to many local businesses who may otherwise have ceased trading.