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Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts has issued a desperate plea for the public to reach into their pockets and give generously to ensure it can continue feeding struggling families and individuals over the winter.
Having provided 1,250,000 meals free of charge to those in need since the beginning of the pandemic, the organisation says it’s reaching a critical time as more and more vulnerable people are coming forward for help.
Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts was set up by out-of-work chefs at the start of the pandemic to support those who were shielding, had been made redundant, or had suddenly lost their income. Thousands of volunteers have dedicated their time to cook and deliver the meals, but even as the economy recovers and people return to employment, scores of locals are contacting the organisation each month to ask for food.
Operations manager Dylan Childs said: “When our volunteer numbers almost halved as restrictions were lifted, we had to take the heartbreaking decision to stop taking on new service users earlier this year. This is something we never wanted to do, as we believe everyone should have access to healthy food.”
But he fears that without extra funding over the winter, the organisation may not be able to continue delivering the food packages.
It costs the organisation about £1.50 to provide one person with a package of food for one day, which will typically include soup and bread for lunch, fresh fruit or a snack, and a healthy and filling main meal. This is all delivered to service users across the city who would otherwise go without food.
Mr Childs said: “Food and fuel costs are only rising, so for us this means it’s more expensive to operate, and for some of the general public, it may mean making the choice between paying for food or heating this winter.
"It only costs us £1.50 to feed someone for a day, but when you think about the number of meals we’re providing – around 5,000 each week – these costs quickly add up.
"We’re fortunate enough to have had some funding from incredibly generous local businesses, but without donations from the public, we’re at risk of not being able to provide our service to some of Edinburgh’s most vulnerable people throughout the winter.”
One service user who’s been receiving daily food packs for almost a year said of the service in feedback to volunteers: “I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has a part to play in providing me with food every day for many, many months now. I can honestly say you have stopped me from starving. You all have huge hearts: admin, cooks, drivers, packers, and anyone else I've missed. I'm ever so happy to see someone every day or two, just to say ‘hi’ and chat for 30 seconds of their time. You are true angels in disguise.”
Donations can be made to Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts’ crowdfunder here: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/feed-edinburgh