the chef who fed wandsworth pensioners sat down

Big-hearted chef cooks 6,000 free meals for Wandsworth pensioners

A catering chef launched a scheme to ensure vulnerable Wandsworth pensioners were fed during lockdown. 

Jimmy Garcia, 33, used his culinary skills to tend to the needs of the vulnerable and elderly community during the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite facing questions of how to keep his business afloat, the event catering chef from Tooting, partnered with Age UK Wandsworth to provide for pensioners unable to leave their homes during lockdown. 

Garcia explained: “The situation we are faced with is bigger than my company or the hospitality industry as a whole.

“We knew we couldn’t do what we normally do by providing live dining experiences, so we decided to use our skills for good and to give back to those in need.” 

He set up a fundraiser titled #DonateADinner and made a pledge to all his customers and corporate clients. 

The £18,135 raised in donations meant they could buy the ingredients and cook 6,000 meals for those shielding. 

CHEF JIMMY: Finishing a batch of meals in high spirits. Credit:Jimmy Garcia

Born to a food- loving Spanish father, Garcia’s fondest memories are of his grandma growing, rearing and cooking fresh vegetables on his visits to Spain. 

His love of cooking started with family and blossomed into an event catering company, creating pop up dining experiences in unique locations. 

Jimmy first ‘popped up’ in 2011 opening a 25-seater restaurant in his living room in Balham.

Garcia and his catering team whipped up seven days’ worth of nutritious meals for each household, from Vegetable and Chickpea Curry with Rice to Vegan Chilli.

The meals were later driven to Wandsworth Civic Centre and stored in the freezer, ready to be delivered to each house by volunteers at Age UK Wandsworth.  

Garcia explained: “We got amazing feedback, people expressed how much they were looking forward to our meals arriving each week, and that our efforts had given them peace of mind during a traumatic time.

“The Wandsworth community spirit was also incredible to see, people were honking their car horns and waving as we made our daily deliveries.” 

DELIVERING THE GOODS: Age UK Wandsworth volunteers with food donations. Credit: Age UK Wandsworth

 A spokesperson from Age UK Wandsworth has shown gratitude to Jimmy’s efforts throughout the pandemic.

They said: “We were so grateful to work with Jimmy during the lockdown to help supply food to the hundreds of older residents who were unable to get out or shop online. 

“Jimmy’s meals ensured we could provide nutritious pre-prepared meals to some of our more vulnerable residents and those with special dietary needs due to illness. 

“Including the meals that Jimmy was able to provide, we were able to make over 3,500 deliveries of food to isolated older people in Wandsworth during the lockdown.”

With many people still isolating around the country, the future still remains uncertain but Jimmy is prepared for a second lockdown. 

He revealed:  “We would be better prepared to cook but we have exhausted our fundraising capacity.

“Our aim now is to create a foundation so people can continue to donate.”

Garcia’s efforts over lockdown have attracted a new clientele.

He said: “We have a new fan base, I have a group of 75 and overs hitting the pop up igloos this winter.” 

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Featured image credit : Jimmy Garcia Catering

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