Leith Theatre have begun a partnership with new community interest company, ‘Empty Kitchens Full Hearts,’ to feed those in need during the Covid crisis and beyond. The Thomas Morton Hall has been transformed into a bustling food storage, drop-off and packing centre and the attached kitchens, which are generally not in use, have once again found their calling, as a team of professional chefs work round the clock to prepare a selection of healthy foods for free delivery and takeaway.
Empty Kitchens Full Hearts started out in April as a response to Covid-19 directly affecting vulnerable people who already had limited access to food. Using food donated by supermarkets, charities and individuals, and utensils and catering equipment given by closed kitchens and restaurants, the team have already sent out 86,456 free meals.
Leith Theatre, which has recently closed the doors in a bid to protect itself against the financial impact of Covid-19, sought out a collaboration with Empty Kitchens Full Hearts in order to continue doing the only thing possible in the current situation; steadfastly support the community it is at the heart of.
To date, Empty Kitchens Full Hearts have distributed 10,158 nutritious meals completely free of charge from Leith Theatre. A hot food takeaway offering is now available between 11:30-12:30 and 16:30-17:30 every day, seven days a week for those unfortunately unable to reheat food themselves. This will now be served from the main entrance porch at Leith Theatre with access at the main gates clearly marked.
Lewis McLachlan, founder of this much-needed initiative, said, “All of the meals are cooked from scratch by professional catering staff who have either lost their jobs or been on the furlough scheme and are giving their time for free, alongside an army of volunteers packing and delivering.
“There is no sign that the need for this service is slowing down. At the start of May we were providing 4000 meals per week and less than two months later this has doubled to over 8000 with the week beginning the 13th of July forecast at 11,000. I believe these numbers are only going to get higher and moving into the Thomas Morton Hall is a key element for us to be ready to help more as people need it.”
Lynn Morrison, Executive Director at Leith Theatre, said, “When we heard that they were looking for a new kitchen, we knew that this worthwhile enterprise was something that would fit with our ethos and would be the perfect silver lining to the cloud of our closure. It is a way of supporting our community in a very proactive, visible way and something we are able to do despite being shut to the public until 2021.
“Having the building shut and sealed was never going to be something that sat well with Leith Theatre and I feel very much that by offering our kitchen, hall and outside space for this project, it acts as a natural companion to our highly successful foodbank, stationery and mask material collections. I am excited to collaborate with this wonderful team of tenacious chefs and volunteers and welcome them to the Leith Theatre family.”
Although the majority of the food donated would otherwise go to waste, and the project is run by volunteers, there are still costs involved; packaging, fuel, PPE and the additional running costs associated with such a huge operation.
Together, Leith Theatre and Empty Kitchens Full Hearts will continue to transform donated food into full meal packs, ensuring access to nourishment for all, and wasting nothing so that others may want for nothing.