Best-selling food writer Annabel Karmel has taken on a new challenge, cooking for NHS staff battling with coronavirus. Working with the independent charity Compassion London, the best-selling author on food and nutrition for babies and children is delivering freshly prepared meals to vulnerable groups throughout London, to support key workers and their families during the COVID-19 crisis.
Compassion London has been set up by chef and philanthropist Leon Aarts – previously known for providing meals to refugees in the Calais jungle – to provide meals for NHS and support workers, vulnerable children and their families, and those who are sick during the current pandemic. The meals are prepared in The Yum Yum Food Company kitchens, a nursery catering business founded by Abigail Simon in partnership with Ms Karmel, the author of 37 books on food and nutrition for babies and children.
The Yum Yum Food Company became involved with the project when it offered the use of its kitchen to the charity. Talking about her motivation to get involved with providing meals to NHS workers, Ms Karmel said: ‘Everyone feels that they want to be helping the people that have been saving lives and risking their own lives to do so. Providing meals with good nutritional value is a really important way that we can help. We wanted to be able to deliver meals with really high nutritional value to those who need it’. Despite the number of kitchens closed in the face of the crisis, Ms Karmel said that it’s still difficult to find available kitchens to make healthy meals for those in need.
Currently, they are cooking and delivering 2500 meals a day to hospitals across London and the surrounding area. This includes hospitals such as Guy’s Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
The project relies on volunteer work to provide the meals. Fresh ingredients are donated by the charities Felix Project and City Harvest, which specialise in redistributing surplus food from the catering industry, to make the meals. These are cooked by a rotational staff of chefs from a variety of backgrounds, and the deliveries are handled by volunteer drivers.
Ms Karmel also commented on the importance of the support she has received during this time; ‘My partner, Abigail Simon, has been incredible. She put up the original Facebook post that led to all of this and she contacted Leon. She’s been amazing. The logistics involved in this project are so complicated and we’ve had incredible support, but we still need more’.
The demand for this service has been enormous and there are plans to expand the service where possible. Ms Karmel said she is now looking to distribute healthy children’s ready meals to support the families of NHS workers. ‘They’re coming home from an 11-hour shift and they’ve still got children to feed,’ she said. ‘At the end of the day, they’re still parents and we’re looking to make things easier for them.’