Top chefs turn culinary skills to feed needy families in east London

Food being prepared in the Grocers’ Livery kitchen  

Food being prepared in the Grocers’ Livery kitchen - Credit: Richard Fairclough

Thousands of high-quality meals created by top chefs are being sent to families in need across east London by City livery kitchens. 

Cooked meals are being paid for by the City of London’s International Disasters Fund, which has dished out £25,000 to the City Harvest food distribution charity.  

The scheme is supplying groups like the Solidarity Britannia Food Bank in Bethnal Green and the Aston-Mansfield charity which runs the Little Manor Play Project in Manor Park. 

“I used to have a job and pay for everything I needed,” one user at the Bethnal Green food bank, named only as Sultana by City of London Corporation, revealed.

“I felt I lost my dignity since losing my job with the tasteless food I got from different food banks. But this food is different – it makes me feel happy and I love opening the box each Friday and discovering what’s inside.”  

Chefs at work in the Fishmongers’ Company's kitchen  

Chefs Stefan Pini, Gwenael Jacquemot and Shazabe Qureshi at work in the Fishmongers’ Company's kitchen - Credit: Richard Fairclough

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Three City of London livery companies are providing the food, kitchens and chefs who cook meals to send out to charities.   

Stuart Mansfield, senior play worker at the Manor Park play scheme, said: “The meals give parents the chance to provide quality and nutritious cooked meals for their families every week."

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The meals are paid for by 62 City livery companies, which have given £640,000 for 130,000 meals since April last year.  

The City Harvest project, which sends out surplus food to 300 charities across London, is dealing with a demand that has tripled during the pandemic. 

Its chief executive, Laura Winningham, said: “The most basic things like food, shelter and care become important at times like this. Knowing that you’re on the radar of someone who can help feed your children is a huge benefit.”  

Volunteer Tay Motl helps deliver City Harvest meals in east London   

Volunteer Tay Motl helps deliver City Harvest meals in east London - Credit: City Corporation

Pleas are being sent out by the City of London to businesses, trusts and other organisations to donate to City Harvest at 

The catering is being carried out by the Drapers’, Fishmongers’ and Grocers’ companies, three of the City’s trade guilds which are providing their food, chefs and halls staff free. 

Drapers’ Company chief Richard Winstanley said: “Getting food to people who need it is helping thousands of people in some of the most deprived parts of east London.”  

Organisations receiving meals in the scheme include Spitalfields City Farm, Tower Hamlets Food Action Group, Hackney’s Seventh-Day Adventist church and the Red Cross. 

The scheme has also sent meals to four east London hospitals including the Royal London, Mile End and Newham.  

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