The Covid-19 pandemic has in many ways torn the globe apart. The globalised planet which we are used to has come to a dramatic halt. The virus has not spared any continent, victimising hundreds of thousands of people, from young to old, but not just in the sense of becoming infected with the disease. Life as we know it slipped away before we could even digest the scale of the pandemic, we have been led into a new way of living.
This new life under quarantine includes queueing just to get into the supermarket, a lack of face to face human socialisation and a restriction on our basic freedoms. Luckily, as restrictions worldwide seem to be slowly lifting, we can start to envision post-pandemic life. As with any natural disaster, small or large, the gap between those who have and those who have not is alarmingly exacerbated. To be able to stay at home, in a warm, safe environment, with food to eat, is a privilege that many do not have, let alone the privilege of jetting off on an international flight to enjoy a holiday. The pandemic has shed light on this alarming disparity within society; triggering a positive response from charities, organisations and individuals.
The UK has one of the highest rates of inequality in the developed world. Many have been hit hard by the pandemic as they are unable to work and food bank donations have dwindled. Open kitchens is an organisation that unites restaurants and their local communities to be able to produce meals and deliver them to those in need. Phoebe Patrick is a student and waitress at Iberico Tapas Bar in Nottingham, UK. Phoebe, along with the rest of the Iberico team, has volunteered to cook delicious and nutritious meals for the most vulnerable in the community.
So you’re helping to get free meals out to people in Nottingham. What does a typical day of volunteering look like?
A typical day starts with the chefs at around 8am where they start cooking and preparing the meals. I would get there around 10am with the rest of the volunteers and we have to set out the meal boxes first of all, then evenly distribute all the food and make sure each box has everything in it. Then we have to package everything up with food labels and carry it all downstairs to the fridges. It can take all day but each week has been easier and faster as we built on our technique!
Is the scheme only local or is it part of a bigger project?
It started off local but Open Kitchens now has restaurants across the UK taking part, including some in London.
How many meals do you get out on a typical day? Is there a set target?
Our final target which is 10,000 meals, and each week we have been making 1000 meals. We make and package the meals in one day, and then the second day they get loaded up into the vans and shipped off to different places. We’ve done 6 weeks so far and have been able to make 6000 meals so we are over halfway to our target!
Who do the meals go to?
It changes each week and can go to anyone who’s vulnerable or in need. This can range from homeless shelters, to the YMCA and community groups. The great thing about Open Kitchens is it makes restaurant quality, nutritious food available to anyone. People who have not been able to cook a hot meal at home or have never been out to eat in a restaurant have benefitted from the Open Kitchens scheme and I hope it can continue even after coronavirus ends.
Covid-19 has revealed one of the blatant errors of modern life: the unforgivable situation that many people living in the richest nations find themselves in. In 2019 approximately 1.6 million people used a food bank in the United Kingdom. However, the pandemic has also highlighted humanity, kindness and generosity within communities with schemes such as Open Kitchens and with other community responses who aim to help the most vulnerable within this crisis. This collective spirit must prevail when restrictions are lifted and normality returns to make way for a fairer society.
For more information visit: https://openkitchens.co.uk/
By Lydia Patrick