When the Flour Pot café in Seven Dials was forced into lockdown at the end of March, there was little warning. Like the rest of the city’s hospitality industry, its team had to think quickly. Loulou Tamadon-Nejad is the communications manager at Flour Pot’s seven stores across Brighton; ‘Overnight, we had to come up with a new model’, she said. ‘We still had our vans and our drivers, so we realised that we could quickly change to a home delivery service while still selling bread, pastries and essentials such as milk, butter and eggs for customers willing to queue to buy them through the window.’ As friends and neighbours faced going out of business, Loulou and her team offered to sell and deliver their goods too. You can now buy flowers from Gunn’s the Florist, Smors hummus, cheese from the Cheeseman and Curing Rebels charcuterie from your local Flour Pot cafes.
But it wasn’t just its own survival that The Flour Pot was thinking about; it is part of a city-wide campaign to feed Brighton’s hospital staff via the Facebook page, Brighton & Hove NHS Food Bank which coordinates local food and drink businesses as well as individuals in feeding the health workers on the front line of COVID-19. Its recent fundraiser, Brighton and Hove Feed the NHS aimed to raise £5,000 when it launched in early April with prizes worth over £10,000 including a cocktail masterclass and chef-cooked meals at the winner’s home, but smashed its goal by 322% with over £16,000 donated in just one week. By the beginning of May, they had raised nearly £40,000 which now provides 4 meals a day to the Royal Sussex in Brighton and the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath.
Set up in March by Simon Livermore from Hove and Seven Dials resident Petra Exton, the Brighton & Hove NHS Foodbank began by providing food and groceries to NHS staff during the battle against Coronavirus. But it quickly attracted the attention of the Brighton Restaurants Association and its members and now delivers four delicious meals 24 hours a day to the front-line Critical Care team at the Royal Sussex County Hospital (RSCH) in Brighton and the Princess Royal in Haywards Heath, a total of 4,300 meals a day.
Founder of the Brighton & Hove NHS Foodbank, Simon Livermore said: ‘It started off as a nice idea to send basics like rice and beans to staff who were suddenly too busy to eat, but ity seemed like everyone wanted to do something.’ Simon and Petra also realised that accepting offers from local restaurants would be a way of keeping them in the public eye during lockdown at what seemed an impossible time for the industry; ‘Nurses were telling me that they’d love their burrito bowls with fresh salsa from La Choza or a curry from Easy Tiger so much that they’d order a take-away from there on their night off’ said Petra ‘It was a way of helping both NHS frontline staff by feeding them amazing food and supporting local businesses.’
Simon and Petra have been overwhelmed by the love shown on the Facebook page; ‘I’ve shed tears on many occasions,’ said Simon. ‘This is not just about putting food in their bellies. It’s about morale.’