Wildefeast 2020 05 04 16

A Sunderland catering company that has been hard-hit by COVID-19 is battling to support NHS staff, despite the end of a pandemic support fund and the challenges its own businesses is facing.

A Sunderland catering company that has been hard-hit by COVID-19 is battling to support NHS staff, despite the end of a pandemic support fund and the challenges its own businesses is facing.

Wildefeast, a mobile catering company, that is run by Sunderland pair Simon Burdus and Ben Hodgson, is determined to continue feeding hardworking NHS staff, who are fighting on the frontline at Sunderland Royal Hospital.

The business held a 'Meals for the NHS' contract – provided by a charity set up to help hardworking staff on a temporary basis during the COVID-19 pandemic - but funding came to a halt in Sunderland last week. 

The caring duo are doing everything in their power to ensure that NHS staff in the city continue to receive a hot meal, and have embarked on a fundraising initiative so that Sunderland doctors and nurses are not left without their meal.  A £5 donation will pay for a home-cooked dish and a pudding for frontline NHS staff who are battling to beat COVID-19, and the couple are hoping to raise £2,000 to feed 100 members of staff at the hospital one healthy meal and pudding for the next four weeks.

The fundraising initiative, set up by Simon on Saturday, raised more than £200 in just 24 hours, as members of the public donated cash as a thank you to NHS Sunderland workers who have been supporting COVID-19 patients since the pandemic reached UK shores three months ago.  Simon has applied for matched-funding, which means that – if successful - for every two meals bought, a third will be matched.

Simon and Ben’s business is facing challenging times, after weddings and events they normally cater for were also cancelled due to the UK’s tough lockdown measures that have been in place since March. 

Simon, who set up Wildefeast in 2013, said: “Sunderland General’s funding was cut at the beginning of June, with the entire ‘Meals for the NHS’ initiative’s funding stopping next week.  It couldn’t have come at a worse time for us as a business, as we have been unable to tap into any Government support to get us through COVID-19 and as we are so reliant on events taking place – which have of course ceased in recent months – it’s been a challenging time. 

“But we were so sad that – given all they are doing to get the city through this virus – the end of the Meals for the NHS contract meant that our amazing NHS would not be benefitting from a healthy meal after a long shift.  We’re determined to carry on for a few more weeks, and setting up this fundraising felt like the right thing to do, to see if we can make it happen.”

Simon and Ben plan to keep fundraising for as long as possible, and taking in healthy home-cooked meals in batches of 100 with every £500 raised.  They have also asked everyone who donates to provide a message for NHS staff, which they will share – along with the meal – to let them know how much people value their work. 

Simon added: “People have been so appreciative of the efforts of the NHS, and this feels like a chance to show them how thankful we are for all they have done.  I hope people get behind it.”

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Throughout this crisis, we have seen countless examples of businesses and people coming together to help one another, and this is yet another demonstration of how supportive our communities are.”

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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