12:30PM, Thursday 09 July 2020
Andy Agar delivering meals to Cliveden Manor Care Home in Marlow.
The co-founder of the Meals from Marlow initiative has described how the idea ‘rapidly grew’ into a permanent charity.
Andy Agar was part of a group, including celebrity chef Tom Kerridge, which came up with the idea of supplying free meals to NHS frontline staff and vulnerable people during the coronavirus lockdown.
With an initial fundraising target of £40,000 to deliver 10,000 meals, the scheme smashed its targets and has raised more than £180,000 and delivered 75,000 dishes.
In line with its success, Meals from Marlow is now set to become a permanent charity, transforming it from a lockdown initiative into an all-year round campaign, with the help of generous suppliers and chefs.
“I knew Tom through the gym, and we had a conversation about how life was as we approached lockdown,” Andy said.
“He said: ‘I have all of my staff on furlough, and I want to keep them mentally challenged'. So we came up with something which makes a difference to the community but also keeps these guys engaged.
“At that point, we did not know where these meals were going to go but we knew there was going to be some need at the NHS level.
“Very quickly, that £40,000 became £175,000.”
He added: “It started as a small idea to help the NHS and it rapidly grew because of public support.
“It has had a lot of other benefits – it is not just the food, it is the social interaction, mental health.
“It is lots of people donating a fiver here or a tenner there. Or people living in Leeds saying ‘you have been sending food to my grandmother and I would like to give you some money’.”
Andy explained how the charity will develop even further in the future as lockdown is eased and it has to cater for different types of people.
“The focus is going to be on local people who are in need of support and that will start to change,” he said. “Food is a great connector of people. Everyone has to eat.”
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