Volunteers deliver nearly half a million free meals

The team have been providing vital food parcels throughout the pandemic.

Volunteers deliver nearly half a million free meals Katielee Arrowsmith via SWNS

Volunteers have delivered nearly half a million free meals during the coronavirus pandemic – providing breakfast, soup, a snack and a main course for 50p per person.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts was set up in Edinburgh in March last year when the impact of the pandemic on jobs and livelihoods became apparent.

Unlike food banks, there is no referral needed and also no means testing, so people can access meals immediately when they need them.

By the end of January, it is expected that half a million meals will have been delivered, with the number so far around 430000.

On one day alone last week, 1041 ‘day’ packs – containing breakfast, soup, a snack and a main course – were dropped off.

Supermarkets donate food to the organisation, meaning most of the costs are fuel for the van and containers, and a ‘day pack’ costs about 50p to make.

One of the founders, Sonya Mathews, 35, said: “We get people who are really grateful to be able to get food without all the red tape.

“Using foodbanks is not straightforward.

“We get Instagram messages from people in other parts of the country where food provision involves waiting for referrals.

“It can be too complicated and too convoluted.

“We don’t means test anybody, anyone who asks for help gets help.

“Poverty and destitution are often situations which could happen to anyone.”

More than 200 volunteers help with packing up parcels with 60 people offering to work in a socially distanced kitchen in Leith, Edinburgh.

Another 100 volunteers deliver food, and over the course of the pandemic more than 1,000 people have given up their time.

People who have been furloughed or have become unemployed have helped, including teachers, bankers and students, with many working one day a week.

Hot food is also provided at Leith Theatre, in Leith, Edinburgh, from 12 until 1pm every day.

Sonya, who lives near Leith, Edinburgh, and is unemployed added: “It is the entire community pulling together.

“We rescue food – we get it donated from supermarkets and we take it from businesses which have shut in lockdown.

“We managed to come up with this system, whereby we can provide this much food for 50p.”

She was scathing about school meals provision down south which hit headlines.

Sonya added: “The government outsources these provision services to their buddies with no supervision.

“It is indicative of the fact they really don’t care.

“If it was a voucher it is an intangible thing, but the photos show a bag of potatoes, a tin of beans and a loaf of bread.

“It is indicative of how little they care.”

She said demand varied as the pandemic wore on, and added: “We are not seeing the same people for ten months in a row.

“We see an increase and decrease in demand, and we expect to see it increase when furlough ends.

“We expect to have delivered 500000 meals by the end of January.”

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