South London residents launched a £500,000 fundraising campaign to feed frontline NHS staff and support grocers hit by restaurant closures.
Harvest for Heroes delivers boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables for free to hospitals throughout London and the South East.
The project garnered huge community support and Twitter endorsement from David Coulthard, Taron Egerton and Jonathan Ross.
Co-founder Will Townsend, 44, said: “#ClapForOurCarers has been great but we wanted to do something more material and substantive.”
School friends, Oliver Bailey and Will Townsend co-founded Harvest for Heroes with Darren Burrows and Paul Twiney, two weeks ago.
Oliver Bailey, 43, explained: “When my son was born with spina bifida in 2017, we had an incredible team looking after us at King’s College Hospital.”
Last month, Mr Bailey offered to send coffee and donuts to King’s Hospital but staff said they were inundated with unhealthy snacks.
Panic buying had prevented NHS workers from accessing healthy food as many faced empty supermarket shelves after working long shifts.
Harvest for Heroes has delivered 1200 boxes of groceries to 15 hospitals around London, Sussex and Kent in 13 days.
Critical care nurse Annie Anderson at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Woolwich said: “Supermarkets are better now but we’re amazed by the continuous generosity of people.”
Three days after its inception, Harvest for Heroes raised £6,000 in donations, launched a website and delivered 150 boxes to three hospitals.
Mr Bailey said: “This is our opportunity to look after those who have been looking after us.”
“Logistically, groceries and delivery transport were readily available but people donated to a cause worth getting behind” added Mr Townsend.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive.”
This is Melissa. Melissa is co-ordinating the donations that come in every day. This is some job she has. We often talk about the doctors and nurses in the front line but it really is a team effort— @harvest4heroes (@harvest4heroes) April 10, 2020
Melissa lifted our spirits, we love her ❤️ @kingscollegehospital @KingsCollegeNHS pic.twitter.com/AfiSv5ZL7O
Harvest for Heroes partnered with wholesale greengrocers, Premier Foods Service Provider, based in New Covent Garden Market, the UK’s largest fruit, vegetable and flower market.
Each box contains fresh fruit and vegetables, pasta, milk and eggs, the necessities to make healthy meals.
Lockdown negatively impacted wholesale businesses that typically supplied groceries to restaurants, pubs and hotels nationally.
Darren Burrows, 47, said: “The Market came to a standstill. Catering wholesalers now have to adapt to more domestic customer bases.
“Not only can we help the NHS but the knock-on effect helps keep drivers and packing staff in the warehouses at New Covent Garden Market busy.”
Harvest for Heroes hopes to upscale and expand donations to food banks, key workers and vulnerable communities.
“We are keen for businesses to sponsor hospitals in their community through corporate donations so that we can provide boxes to key workers across the country,” said Mr Townsend.