Following the success of our ‘Free Food in the Park’ event earlier this year, we wanted to once again put our collective culinary expertise to the test and provide a hot meal for those who need it most.
Thinking a ‘Christmas special’ would be an appropriate idea, we approached St George’s Crypt — one of the amazing charities that was so instrumental in spreading the word about our first event. Keen to let us get involved, several of our staff members were invited to take over the kitchen at the Crypt to prepare a three course meal for local service users.
Coordinated by our Office Manager Katie Miles and our Head of Back-end Development Jamie Sefton, we got things off the ground by setting up a GoFundMe page, with all the money raised going directly towards food ingredients and warm winter clothing.
On the day of the event, we took all the fresh ingredients up to St George’s Crypt early in the morning so we could get prepped before lunchtime rolled around. We wrapped up hats, gloves and scarves and brought along Christmas crackers to add a festive touch.
The meal took place straight after the day’s ‘Switch ON’ session organised in partnership with Opera North. These regular singing groups are held at the adjacent St George’s Church, with guests then invited to the canteen next door where our volunteers were busy cooking up tasty hot foods like soup, stews and mashed potatoes.
“It was hard work, but also incredibly rewarding.” said Project Manager Tom Faller. “It makes you appreciate how difficult it is to cook for such high volumes of people — and this is something staff at the Crypt do day in, day out. It felt a bit like one of those mass-catering challenges they have on Masterchef.”
After hours of preparation — chopping, peeling, slicing and dicing — the stew was bubbling away steadily and the mince pies were laid out ready. The inviting smell of delicious food wafted across the room. Before we knew it, the canteen began to fill up and an orderly queue started to form. Most of our guests had either experienced homelessness directly, or were at risk of becoming homeless. As they tucked in, we handed out our parcels of winter clothing.
“It was a real privilege to work with St George’s Crypt. They do such great work with people experiencing a lot of hardship. And with winter setting in, we really hope other local agencies will take our lead and get involved.”
Staff and volunteers at the centre were exceptionally accommodating, helping us at every step. With their guidance, our food seemed to go down a treat. We were delighted when Radio Aire stopped by for an interview, and the story was also picked up by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
As well as offering a wholesome lunch, our main goal is to keep raising awareness amongst the digital scene in Leeds. If more and more businesses similar to our own are able to donate just a little time, together we can really make a big difference. For as long as possible, we’d like to continue to challenge the idea that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch”.