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Free meals for the NHS during Covid-19

10th May 2020

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The team at Helpforce are proud to work in partnership with talented and generous people on a mission to help the NHS. We have been privileged to join with entrepreneurs and businesses that have moved mountains to help thousands as the country faces Covid-19. These people prove that when the spark of ingenuity and passion come together, extraordinary things can happen.

MealForce is a shining example, and, along with other coalitions, they have brought hundreds of chefs, restaurants, caterers, and volunteers together to make thousands of meals and deliver them directly to frontline staff in hospitals. Delicious meals are received by grateful nurses and doctors who are too tired to cook for themselves or to shop for food after a long shift at work, all at no cost to the NHS.

An array of organisations and individuals signed up to MealForce, a coalition put together by Ian Wace, chief executive of the hedge fund Marshall Wace, with costs underwritten when necessary by the generosity of Marshall Wace partners and staff, and many of the establishments. In a matter of days these teams were up and running and delivering thousands of meals across London, showing how fast things can happen when people are determined to help.

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Enthusiasm is catching, and we were thrilled when the team at Manchester United decided to join MealForce and commit to delivering up to 60,000 meals from Old Trafford this month. MealForce is also working with FeedNHS, a public fundraising platform sponsored by the restaurant chain Leon; the team behind ‘Feed our Frontline’; and the catering company Baxter Storey. With great minds working together logistically, operationally and financially to tackle the challenge, they will collectively deliver 1.5 m delicious hot meals by the end of May.

Hear from grateful NHS staff:

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“Staff have been so delighted with the meals, we are so grateful! #ThankYou.” Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust

“Love the sweet and sour chicken, and chicken dishes in general are very popular at this site.”

“Your service has been perfect – you guys have been stars.”

“Our favourite dishes are veg curry and definitely sweet & sour chicken, also anything with couscous – everyone loves the veg tagine.”

“I didn’t used to eat in the canteen and had a sandwich instead, now I’m eating hot food for free every day, it’s fantastic and makes such a difference – thank you so much!”

“You guys at Bovingdons were always on time, delivering just what I expected. You are very communicative, very flexible and helpful – I found it so easy to work with you. Thank you! The staff at the hospital were incredibly grateful – who can say no to free food?! I’d say their favourite meals were the vegetarian curry and the lamb moussaka, both were really good. It was great to work with you guys and please keep in touch.”
Barts NHS Trust – Whipps Cross, Mile End, Newham, and Royal London

“A generous philanthropist is providing 1,000 free meals for our staff every day during COVID-19 – this gesture was so popular today that I helped to dish up veggie/chicken Florentine for our grateful staff – it was a heart-warming and busy lunch hour!” Chief Executive

“Not only do I want to thank you for the absolutely wonderful free meals but the thought, love and care that you pour into them day in and day out. It’s Ramadan (holy month for muslims) and the gesture for us has been incredibly sweet. You have been boosting our morals and levels of energy in this Pandemic and I would like to convey my heartfelt thanks to all of you. If I could- I would come thank everyone from the cooks to the delivery man…the store owners to shelf stocking staff for being so wonderful to all of us in the NHS.” Junior Doctor
Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust

Ian Wace, chief executive of Marshall Wace, said: “When I heard from Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, who also chairs Chelsea & Westminster NHS Trust, that NHS catering is understandably overwhelmed by demand and there was a risk doctors, nurses, support workers and patients, working so hard on this national emergency would not have enough to eat, I immediately thought this is where the private sector can help at scale. The offer went out to other NHS Trusts via Helpforce and we started to assemble a coalition to meet demand. The response has been phenomenal, and I would like to say a massive thank you to all those fantastic businesses which have moved so fast to answer this urgent call.”

The Team at Bovingdons said: “We are so grateful to be part of this fabulous drive. It is a privilege to serve the NHS, and we are incredibly thankful to have work at this difficult time. Thank you to MealForce and Marshall Wace for making this fantastic initiative possible!”

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Now, more than ever, we are inspired by such acts of determination and kindness, and we wish to thank everyone involved, and in particular: Mark Brown and his team at Marshall Wace who kicked it all off; Manchester United football club; Doggart and Squash; D&D restaurants who kindly opened Pont De La Tour kitchens; The Pie Man; Rhubarb; By Word of Mouth; Urban Caprice; The Connaught; Strand Palace Hotel; The Delauney; Soho House; Baxter Storey, and Feed NHS, set up by Matt Lucas, Helen McCroy, Damien Lewis and Leon Restaurants and all those operators who make up Feed our frontline. And a big thank you to HRH The Countess of Wessex who has been visiting weekly to work in a number of participating kitchens.

This extraordinary work shows us that there is a brighter future, one in which more people use their time and talents to work hand in hand with the services and the people we rely on most at critical points in our lives.

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