Hospitality Cares, an initiative to provide meals for the vulnerable and hungry during lockdown, has been launched in Johannesburg.

Hospitality Solutions Company Operations Manager, Tamara Maudlin, came up with the idea when she was looking into ways that the more than 4 000 staff employed by her company could get involved and help those suffering due to COVID. “I was thinking about our staff and how many of them are struggling to feed themselves and thought there had to be a way we can start a food bank or a soup kitchen,” she said.

Rather than starting from scratch, Maudlin paired up with non-profit organisation MES (Mould, Empower, Serve), which had an existing soup kitchen facility.

She called on the Executive Chef at 54 on Bath, Matthew Foxon, for assistance. He enlisted a number of volunteer chefs and soon the kitchen was running more efficiently than ever. “The chefs taught everyone at the kitchen how to make the most out of produce so that, what in the past would make 50 meals from the same number of ingredients, can now stretch to 80,” said Maudlin.

Eventually, there were so many chefs volunteering that the soup kitchen became too small. Hospitality Cares then enlisted the help of HTA Chefs Academy, which allowed them to use its kitchens and, when students return in June, they will be sent to help in the Hospitality Cares’ kitchens.

With the days getting colder, Maudlin hopes that Hospitality Cares will be able to support MES’s annual ‘winter warmers’ collection of blankets and warm clothes. “We would really like to see a response from hotels that are able to donate their old linen.” She said the hospitality industry had shown overwhelming support.

Maudlin told Tourism Update that in the month since the initiative’s inception, close to 30 000 meals had been served to the community and they were hoping that the initiative would continue. “We are so grateful to our chefs, many of whom aren’t getting paid themselves but still get up early to chop veggies for hours and do all this for someone else.”

To distribute more meals, the group needs vacuum pack bags – which cost less than R1 (€0.05) to package 16 portions of food. “Anyone who would like to donate, whether they’re doing so as big corporates or individually, can do so through MES’s bank account, making their reference ‘Hospitality Cares’,” said Maudlin.

For more information on donating to MES, please click here.