John Brownhill and his sister, Amanda, founded Food4Heroes in March this year to support their local NHS workers. Providing free, freshly prepared meals to NHS staff using local networks of pubs, restaurants and catering businesses – it’s now been scaled up to support key workers nationally.
After starting at one hospital in Yorkshire, the team will have served nearly 250,000 meals nationwide by late June. Here’s more on their journey, the response so far and what the future holds for the charity.
Pivoting existing skills to support the community
John and Amanda were not complete strangers to the world of catering before setting up Food4Heroes. Amanda ran a catering business which was not operating due to the lockdown. This closure coincided with a video of a nurse called Dawn who couldn’t buy any food after a long shift due to stockpiling.
“We saw this video and knew something had to change. So my sister and I decided to set up a food service for her local hospital in Huddersfield supplying free healthy meals to people like Dawn from the video,” said John.
John was able to use his skills from his job in technology management to complement his sisters’ experience. “Combining my business knowledge with Amanda’s catering expertise seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. Once we consulted with hospitals about the distribution challenges they faced, we knew our model could make a positive impact.”
The hospitality sector lockdown also provided the opportunity to keep chefs busy and create some much-needed income for the sector.
The right people and technology will help you thrive
John says Food4Heroes’ success is two-fold: gather a team with diverse skills and industry backgrounds, and use the right technologies to streamline processes. This means the team is thorough but quick in its decision making.
“In my job as a technology management consultant, I always encourage customers and other businesses to implement the best people, processes and technologies to support what they are doing. People are at the heart of every business and working with amazing volunteers has meant we can rely on them to make the right decisions at a local level.”
Communities want to support each other
John and Amanda say the support and response the charity received over the last two months blew them away. “The surprise for me was how many people supported us by giving their time for free. We received over 1,000 volunteer enquiries and people have worked tirelessly helping to set up [Food4Hereos] around the country,” said John.
The charity has had hundreds of offers of food donations and many chefs have given up their time without hesitation. It really does show how much people want to support their local communities.
“The response from NHS workers who have received meals has been amazing too. We have and continue to receive hundreds of messages from our NHS heroes every week.”
A future beyond the COVID-19 crisis
John’s plans for the charity include continuing to provide healthy meals to key workers once the COVID-19 crisis has passed. “We established our purpose and very much see that the charity has a future. We’re looking at carrying on working with healthcare workers by providing healthy meals and expanding our work to cover other areas where this is needed.”
John thinks the support Food4Heroes has received reflects one of the more positive changes to come from the current crisis. It’s brought communities together and made people more aware of the struggles of others.
“Who would have thought it would be possible to manage a food prep and distribution business remotely? This pandemic has shown us that many things are possible now and in the future.”