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Exeter Street Hall Emergency Kitchen

During lockdown, demand for our service tripled as a number of emergency projects sprung up in response to the crisis. 

One of these was Wendy Maas’s emergency kitchen that she set up at Exeter Street Hall, Brighton, to provide meals for those most affected by the social and economic impact of the lockdown. In March her own catering company had to suspend activity, alongside countless other businesses. The sudden closure of the entire hospitality industry led to a tidal wave of surplus food almost overnight.

Wanting to help out during this worrying time, Wendy started collecting this food; packaging it up using her own leftover catering supplies; and delivering it to people that were struggling. She then approached Time To Talk Befriending – a project that helps socially-isolated 65+ year olds form long-lasting friendships with volunteers – for a partnership, alongside Hove Park School and Impact Initiatives; and soon Wendy had a large, co-ordinated response.

At the beginning Wendy was relying solely on the donations of food surplus from the industry, but after the initial effects of the lockdown had subsided these started to dwindle out. There were by now also many other emergency hubs set up to do the same thing, so there was more competition for food and less to go around. This is when Wendy signed up to FareShare’s membership scheme.

“We had enough to make what we needed to from the FareShare deliveries alone” she says. “The supply was regular and consistent –  and the drivers were always on time!”. 

Often the variety of produce they received made them think differently about food, and forced them to be creative with what they cooked. “It was great fun looking at what we received and planning how to transform it into meals”. Wendy told us.

“Without FareShare we would have been constantly begging for food or raising money to buy stuff. It would have been a lot more work. Having FareShare as a central hub, allocating food to all these different projects, was so straightforward. And we often used FareShare’s excess that we couldn’t incorporate into our cooking to make up food parcels full of dried goods for those we felt were particularly vulnerable.”

Wendy and her team were working to provide food to several main groups: including isolated elderly people from the Time To Talk scheme, vulnerable people in sheltered housing, young adults just out of social care and even the refugee community. Altogether over the lockdown period, Wendy and her team were able to produce an astounding 400 meals every week: over 6000 in total, to vulnerable people from all walks of life.