Communities and individuals all over the UK are getting involved in the delivery, preparation or cooking of food for friends, neighbours or organisations such as the NHS in an unprecedented way. If you’re looking to set something up, either on your own or as part of a group, it isn’t as hard as you might think, but you do need to adhere to strict safety guidelines.
This guide lists:
- Information about food and coronavirus.
- How to go about shopping and cooking for others safely.
- Recipe ideas for what to make for others.
- Organisations to help you find groups to join.
- People and organisations that’ve set up collective endeavours, that you can donate to.
About food and coronavirus
The latest government advice about coronavirus in relation to food is as follows:
- It is very unlikely that you can catch coronavirus (Covid-19) from food.
- Cooking thoroughly will kill the virus.
- Covid-19 is a respiratory illness. It is not known to be transmitted by exposure to food or food packaging.
- It is especially important to wash hands before handling food or eating.
For more information about shopping and cooking for others, read our food safety and coronavirus guide.
Cooking for others
The main things to consider when you are cooking is how safe your preparation, cooking and delivery method will be. The Food Standards Agency has a list of all the steps you need to think about.
- Whether you need to register.
- Whether you need a food hygiene certificate.
- Information about what temperature food should be stored at and where extra care should be taken.
- How you should address allergen information and what you should ask the people you are feeding.
- What to pack your meals in.
- How to deliver the food.
What to cook
Once you’ve decided to cook for others you have two options: to cook yourself, or join a service that’s already in place (see below). Whichever you chose, you’re likely to need meals ideas. We’ve compiled a list of recipes that are easy to make in batches and travel well.
Cooking for a crowd will depend on who you’re cooking for and how you’re planning on delivering the food. Dishes that don’t spoil and are equally good eaten hot, warm or even cold are a bonus. If you don’t know whether people have dietary requirements, religious or otherwise, then it’s best to stick to vegetarian of vegan dishes, or offer a choice. If you know who you’re cooking for, then choose things that will please them most. For ease, and to maintain safety, you’ll probably be packing the food into individual containers, so make sure any finishing touches or side dishes can be packed in the same container without being spoiled.
Think also about who might be eating the food and where.
If you’re delivering to people’s homes then they will probably have plates, cutlery and a means to reheat food. Label food and provide freezing and reheating instructions if necessary.
If you’re delivering to an NHS hospital, then if might be useful to make sure whatever you are making can be eaten with a fork and doesn’t need to be cut up.
Black bean chilli
Quick to make, vegetarian and freezeable, you can add fresh toppings to make this a real treat and serve with some bread.
Italian vegetable soup
Freezer-friendly, vegetarian and heathy, this soup is packed with veg and pasta.
Spinach, sweet potato & lentil dhal
Easily scaled up or down, this dhal is satisfying and full of flavour. Add rice for a fully formed dish.
Fruity tabbouleh with feta
A lighter lunch idea, or a useful cold dish that doesn’t mind hanging around.
Warming and spicy, this has a punchy flavour and uses economical mince.
Vegan and three of your five-a-day, this is a really good option for a filling meal.
A comforting pasta dish you can make with any kind of sausages.
Tortilla makes a satisfying lunch or snack and can be eaten as is or used as a filling for a sandwich or wrap.
Find organisations in your local area to join
Covid-19 Mutual Aid UK
You can find and join your local area groups here. There are thousands of groups across the country, all you have to do is put in your postcode.
FareShare distribute surplus food to those who need it, there’s a volunteer button on the site.
Help by donating
Damian Lewis, Helen McCrory and Matt Lucas set up this fundraiser with John Vincent from LEON on justgiving.com to provide hot meals to NHS workers. Led by LEON along with Wasabi, Tortilla, Franco Manca, Dishoom, BaxterStorey, Mealforce and others, this is an ongoing and growing initiative providing more than 25,000 meals per day across the UK.
Set up by A&E doctor Jack Manley, this organisation uses donations to fund the cooking and delivery of food by cafes and restaurants such as The Quality Chop House, Smokestak, Quo Vadis and Butchies to front-line staff.
Meals for the NHS
This started with a small group of friends and has grown to a small army. They’ve delivered over 50,000 meals with help from companies including Deliveroo, Uber, Monzo, Spotify, Google, McKinsey and many more.
If you work for the NHS there is a list of offers and help on england.nhs.uk.