Fast-casual chain Leon has joined forces with actors Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Matt Lucas to launch a JustGiving campaign which aims to raise £1m to fund 5,600 hot meals a day for NHS staff in five major London hospitals.
The campaign's aim is to deliver Leon's freshly prepared meals directly to key staff on the front-line in the NHS who are dealing with the ongoing coronavirus crisis, many of who work in critical care units and have neither time nor access to nutritious meals.
In a statement on Thursday Leon co-founder and chief executive John Vincent said: "We have launched FeedNHS because we have been inundated with direct requests from NHS staff and from their families, asking us to feed them. These amazing people need us." Vincent went on to say that if NHS staff are denied access to good food they will "burn out faster, function less well and become ill themselves".
Actor Damian Lewis said his "first point of call" was John Vincent at Leon: "We've got some good friends in the NHS working on the frontline and we've been asking how we can help. One answer was food. With cafes closed and staff working longer hours, eating at work was becoming a real problem."
Since going live on Thursday evening, the appeal has already raised over £222,000 from over 6,700 supporters. It is anticipated that the non-for-profit initiative, which launched in partnership with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and UCLH Healthcare NHS Trust, will inspire others to instigate a countrywide roll-out.
Vincent said: "The hospitality industry is full of wonderful and passionate people. I expect many will want to be part of this action where they can, and where they still have the capabilities and facilities."
It has been reported that other restaurant brands including Wasabi, Franco Manca, Pizza Pilgrims and Tortilla have also shown their support and other operators who wish to get involved are urged to sign up.
To date, Leon has served 19,214 meals to NHS workers at 50% discount.
"With cafes and eateries all shut there is a real need to get healthy hot food to the hospitals," announced Lewis, Lucas and McCrory on their JustGiving page.
A spokesperson from Pizza Pilgrims told The Caterer on Thursday that as well as supporting key workers in Sainsbury's and post offices, they had been able to support some hospitals, including Guy's and UCH while they were operating as delivery only. "Unfortunately we've since decided to close our doors completely for now, however when we do open, we are looking forward to continuing doing drops."
To get involved visit https://leon.co/