Feeding Communities

Yesterday morning, teams of volunteers from Thomas Franks Ltd arrived early at their kitchen hub locations around the country to finish the last bits of prep and packaging of their 10,000 meals, ready for delivery to 39 UK charities in 14 cities including Banbury and Bicester.

All teams set off around 9am to their delivery points and the full drop off was complete by 12 noon.

“that’s our aim – to eradicate food poverty. It shouldn’t exist in the 21st century in one of the most affluent countries in the world.”

“Boom – done! It was a great day yesterday,” Frank Bothwell, founder of Thomas Franks Ltd catering company says, “although the hard work has been going on for days with volunteers packing, boxing, cooking and organising The Big Feed around the clock.

In Oxfordshire, hubs include those at Sibford School, Cranford House School and Dematic software in Banbury.

“I’m very proud of what we have achieved, and in the end we delivered 12,000 meals, although it’s not the end by any means, it’s just the beginning,” he says.

Usually running a European catering company from its headquarters in Hook Norton, since the pandemic broke out Frank has turned his hand to running his new Feeding Communities project, providing free meals to the NHS frontline and deprived children, as well as concentrating on alleviating food poverty itself.

Frank adds that the past eight weeks have massively opened his eyes to the sheer scale of the food poverty problem, yet is incredulous it exists at all and is putting his money where his mouth is.

“In my opinion, food poverty amongst children and families has been exacerbated by this current crisis yet there are so many wonderful people and charities working so hard to help and do something about it,” he says.

“It can be done. It has got to change. And yes industry and commerce is about making money, but its also about giving back. I spent 15 years building up this business but this pandemic has only amplified what needs to be done. I cannot just sit here and do nothing,” Frank says.

Once he got going Frank realised it was just the tip of the iceberg as other charities up and down the country asked if he could help, including The Mayor’s Fund for London’s Kitchen Social campaign.

To date the Thomas Franks Foundation has provided over 70,000 free fresh, healthy, and nutritious meals, as well as food parcels and food vouchers.

READ THE NHS FREE MEALS PIECE HERE:https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/oxfordshire-firm-thomas-franks-provides-1500-free-nhs-meals-a-day-and-6000-a-week-for-vulnerable-children/

“It shouldn’t be happening at all,” Frank says. “We shouldn’t need to be feeding people, so I just hope The Big Feed makes people think about food poverty and what they can do to alleviate it, from feeding their neighbours to donating money or volunteering.

“There should be a solution where fresh, nutritious food is available to those who need it, along with the funding to make that happen. And that’s our aim – to eradicate food poverty. It shouldn’t exist in the 21st century in one of the most affluent countries in the world.

“It’s been really humbling for our volunteers to discover that helping other people is good for your own mental health at the same time.”

“Providing some kindness and meals is the least we can do. So this is a big shout out to highlight the problem and nudge people’s consciences.”

Frank asked his sponsors and clients for help to fund The Big Feed and raised the necessary £20,000 almost instantly.

First up was Trafalgar Square last week when The Thomas Franks Foundation donated 2000 meals to the homeless, in association with Only A Pavement Away, as well as donating 25 microwaves donated by Kenwood, enabling people to reheat their food.

Then The Big Feed, which provided meals to a number of vulnerable families and charities, such as Red Cross, Exeter Food Action and the Mayor’s Fund for London in cities including Birmingham, Greater Manchester, Edinburgh, Fife, Yorkshire, Reading, Sheffield, Dundee, Minehead, Blackburn, Bicester, Somerset, Gloucester, Exeter, Plymouth and Banbury.

“The feedback has been amazing,” Frank said, “because people have been so grateful. It’s been really emotional actually. Everyone was really pumped because they were visiting and helping people who hadn’t had food for days.

“Some described it as feeling 8ft tall. Others wanted to continue giving their time and skills long after this is over, and that will be the legacy of this crisis, while we are looking for a solution to the problem. So it’s been really humbling for our volunteers that while helping other people it’s good for your own mental health at the same time.”

He is also involved in setting up a new foundation of top name chefs whose initial line-up is being announced tomorrow, working together to help, aid and eliminate food poverty in the UK.

Emma Bothwell, Chair of The Thomas Franks Foundation says: ‘We are working hard to provide nutritious meals for those who most need our support at this time. Feeding children and young adults in difficult situations and food poverty is our priority. With your generous support, we can continue to assist those most in need and widen our scope further.

All donations and offers of support will be gratefully welcomed to make a practical and immediate difference to those affected by food poverty. If you are able offer assistance go to: https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/donation-web/charity?charityId=1019087&stop_mobi=yes

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