In June 2021, we reached a milestone we hoped we would never have to reach: delivering one million meals to those who need it.
Going through a tonne of pasta and over a tonne of onions each month we feed around 1,100 people every day by delivering day packs of breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Over 100 hot meals are also served every day from our home within the iconic Leith Theatre, where we've been situated since July 2020. This service requires around 3,500 volunteer hours each week in delivery riders and drivers, chefs, KPs, packers and hot food servers. And, as lockdown eases and many volunteers return to work, we're calling for volunteers to step forward and join the team.
Hatty, one of our volunteers said: "I started volunteering at Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts during the first lockdown. Sitting at home day after day, doing the same things, without human interaction, was badly affecting my mental health, so I looked into local volunteering opportunities. Simply feeling useful and knowing that my time was being spent valuably has benefitted my overall wellbeing so much during what's been an incredibly difficult time for everyone, no matter your circumstances. Being able to serve our clients hot food and knowing I may be providing some of the only human interaction they have that day means the world to me and I know what a difference I'm making to their lives. It's genuinely incredibly rewarding work and feels amazing to be part of this community, especially as we mark our one millionth meal."
In April 2020, local chefs out of work due to the Covid-19 pandemic banded together to form Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts, a free meal service for those struggling to feed themselves. With many hospitality staff out of work, our project provided a sense of purpose for many who had previously led busy lives, all while tackling food waste by turning surplus food from local businesses into healthy, delicious meals.
Mike, another volunteer said: "The process of feeding hungry people with surplus food by keeping out-of-work chefs like myself occupied, has always seemed like one of those ideas that was so simple yet so genius, it just completely made sense to me. Volunteering at Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts personally gave me so much more though, it has brought me enjoyment as an antidote to the anxieties around the Covid-19 situation, a sense of structure in a world seemingly out of control and it has also provided me the opportunity to create social connections in a world of enforced isolation."
Thousands of people around the UK are struggling to put food on the table. Even before COVID, 9% of Scots experienced food insecurity, and over 8 million people in the UK lacked safe and secure access to food. This has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. In 2020, the need for food banks and similar services doubled compared to the previous year. Our service is more needed than ever, going from providing 7,500 meals per week in June last year to 23,000 per week now. Demand for the service has more than trebled. In one of the wealthiest cities in the world, the disparity is stark.
One of our lovely clients sent in this message of gratitude for the volunteers: "I would like to thank you for the meals that have been delivered. Things were extremely hard and these meals really helped me stay in the routine of eating healthy and keeping me motivated. You guys work so hard and I just wanted to say how grateful I am for all the work you all do."
Now, with hospitality and other sectors re-open, we've found ourselves with around 50% of the volunteers we needs to run smoothly and provide food for it's clients. If you can help, please fill in the