“We are 330,000 meals in since the first lockdown, and we haven’t stopped, we are really ramping it up now,” Frank Bothwell tells me en route to one of his Feeding Communities projects.
As the boss of Oxfordshire caterers Thomas Franks, Frank pledged to help end food poverty during the first lockdown and hasn’t looked back since.
“People are sacred. I have first hand experience of it myself, people crying in gratitude at being given food”
And with each new round of restrictions and lockdowns, The Thomas Franks Foundation has been there to pick up the pieces as the number of people in food poverty needing meals and provisions, has continued to rise.
“People are struggling far more this lockdown, and child poverty has become a major issue, which is unacceptable,” Frank states. “I’m not a politician but how can this happen in one of the most affluent countries in the world?”
So has he noticed a difference in the past year? “Absolutely. If money was available in the first lockdown, funds have since dried up and people are on their knees.
“They might have managed to defer their mortgages or bills first time round, but now it’s really hitting them hard and they can’t feed their children. They can’t flip it this time like they have in the past. Homelessness and those suffering from poverty has gone through the roof since lockdown began,” he explains.
“I’M NOT A POLITICIAN BUT HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN IN ONE OF THE MOST AFFLUENT COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD?”
Which is why The Thomas Franks Foundation is providing hot meals and food for those in food poverty, especially children. (Thomas Franks provided 12,000 meals for children suffering from food poverty over the festive period alone), as well as providing for NHS workers, carers and other frontline staff.
“We are just trying to help. That is our aim – to end food poverty, to reach out and help people, smaller charities, who need fresh food, those who have nothing. So what we are looking at is how to deliver that.”
“behind Thomas Franks there is an army of real people that want to help those who have nothing”
Founded in 2005, Thomas Franks is a privately-owned international catering company, based in Hook Norton, that creates top notch food, sourced locally, for the corporate and independent school sectors, which has grown and expanded to 165 different locations with branches in Malta, Portugal and Ireland.
Which means Frank has better access than most to suppliers, logistics, industrial kitchens and a team of furloughed volunteers and contacts. From Barings Bank to Gymshark, his donors are generous, and more and more companies are coming forward to pledge their help and support.
“Logistically we have 400 suppliers who have donated vehicles and warehouses and furloughed staff who are giving their own time. We have a lot of Oxford suppliers as well,” he says.
“Our clients have also given their industrial kitchens for nothing, while dozens of head offices and schools have stepped in.”
“I am surprised and disappointed that in the 21st century there are still kids starving and homeless numbers are increasing”
“The positive side is that the people involved in Feeding Communities will never forget the impact they have had. It’s made a real difference to their lives as well.
“There are so many great people doing great things, and we are supporting these projects and charities wherever possible, because behind Thomas Franks there is an army of real people that want to help those who have nothing,” he says.
Even so, Frank had no idea of the sheer scale of the enterprise The Thomas Franks Foundation would be running come February 2021, and as a result they are flat out.
“It’s the right thing to do. We can’t sit back while running a successful business and not help those who have nothing.
“I am also surprised by people’s humanity – how the majority want to alleviate this together”
“And while we have delivered 330,000 meals delivered since the first lockdown, that number may still double, so we are in it for the longterm.”
So what of the future? “I am surprised and disappointed that in the 21st century there are still kids starving and homeless numbers are increasing. That’s just my opinion but I am also surprised by people’s humanity – how the majority want to alleviate this together.”
“But food poverty is currently increasing. Of that there is no doubt. People are sacred. I have first hand experience of it myself, people crying in gratitude at being given food.
“My job is to front The Thomas Franks Foundation, raise the money and spend it – to allow the hubs to provide fresh food and get it to those who need it the most. And that’s what we are doing.”
And with that he is off to make yet another food delivery, turning only to add: “Thomas Franks always aimed to have a legacy to give something back – we just never expected to have a pandemic to deal with.
“We are just grateful to the foundation for allowing us to do this. That’s what Feeding Communities is all about and it’s a team effort.”
All donations and offers of support will be gratefully welcomed to make a practical and immediate difference to those affected by food poverty. To donate to the Thomas Franks Foundation click on the banner ad above.