Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts: Edinburgh charity issues desperate plea for more volunteers after losing majority of workforce

Volunteers from a group set up at the start of the pandemic to tackle food poverty in Edinburgh say they are at “breaking point” – despite being more in demand than ever.

Founded by a group of out-of-work chefs in Leith, Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts has distributed more than three quarters of a million meals to families in the Capital during the Covid crisis – at a cost of just 50p per meal.

However, as lockdown restrictions ease, the organisation is losing the majority of its workforce, made up heavily of furloughed workers.

Sam Mallalieu, a Director at Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, said: “We couldn’t be happier to see the re-activation of the economy, but for Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, this means a huge drop in our volunteer workforce.

“While we’re thrilled to see them go back to work, we’re losing roughly 45% of the amazing people who volunteer with us day after day to feed those in Edinburgh who wouldn’t otherwise have safe and secure access to food.”

Founded in April 2020, Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts has provided more than 855,000 meals to anyone who needs them.

Using donated food, which would have otherwise gone to waste, the chefs create day packs that contain three meals and deliver them to those in need.

However, the organisation is struggling to provide these due to lack of workforce.


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Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts was set up by a group of out-of-work chefs in Leith at the start of the pandemic.

Mr Mallalieu continued: “We’re running at about 55% capacity in terms of the number of volunteers we need to meet the demand, and it’s just not sustainable. We are fast approaching breaking point.

“The pandemic may be coming to an end, but the need for services like Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts isn’t.

“For example, we usually provide oats to make porridge in our day packs. We have kilos and kilos of oats at our site in Leith, but for the last week we haven’t been able to make use of them, simply because we don’t have enough volunteers to portion them up and pack them.”


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Providing food for 1,400 people each day, the group typically needs 400 volunteers across 700 shifts every week – equating to a total of around 3,500 volunteer hours every week.

If you could volunteer your time packing, cooking or delivering food, contact Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts on [email protected], 07895347157, or visit emptykitchens.co.uk/volunteer.

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