Have you heard of Free My Meal? It’s the simplest of concepts: connect people in need of a meal with people who can provide one. But, this is a concept so effective, necessary and powerful that the campaign has grown exponentially since its creation in August of this year.
Sharing Love, Hope & Chilli
Founder Hayley Steere, of Godalming, Surrey, was trying to think how to help others in her local community during the spring lockdown. Like many of us, she was eager to reach out to those in need and reassure them that support was available.
Whilst making chilli one day, she realised that a little extra cooking was all that was needed. ‘Chilli is such an easy dish; it travels well, is generally liked and simple to produce in larger quantities. I thought, wouldn’t it be great if there was a place that you could get chilli from should you need dinner.’
The next day, Hayley launched Free My Meal. ‘I had no idea how things would take off’. But this was the first step to a groundswell of interest. Within 24 hours, there were already around 200 people signed up and it’s grown rapidly ever since. ‘We’ve now linked literally of thousands of pairs of volunteer cooks with recipients across the country, and beyond.’
Former single-mum Hayley has first-hand experience of struggling to put food on the table. She hates the idea of others having the same challenge. ‘Most of all, I hate the idea that people are too embarrassed to seek help. There should be no shame in asking. People may need help for a whole host of different reasons, even people who look like they have it all together from the outside. We’re not here to judge or ask questions – we just want to offer love and support.’
Already over 15,000 people have signed up across 64 geographically-arranged Facebook Groups. The majority of the groups are in the UK but they stretch as far away as The Phillippines and Australia. In each group, people either offer a meal, or request support.
Free My Meal seeks to link the two groups, minimising food wastage and ensuring it goes directly where it is needed the most. Hayley tells us, ‘The requests for meals can be done privately so no-one need feel awkward about reaching out. The whole campaign is based on trust and respect, and so far our members have been brilliant in their understanding of that.’
Free My Meal has really captured the imagination. ‘We’ve been so lucky to receive some amazing support from celebrities as well.’
From Nigella Lawson to Kathy Burke, Lord Alan Sugar and many many more, there has, rightly, been all sorts of heartwarming support for this wonderful initiative.
‘And don’t forget Louis Tomlinson!’, says Hayley. ‘Those Louis fans are AMAZING! They’ve already raised well over £3,000 for FreeMyMeal in honour of Louis’s birthday. We love him, and them, and can’t thank everyone enough!’
Christmas Food Pledge
The campaign has recently launched its Christmas Food Pledge Promise. ‘We want to make sure everyone can enjoy a Christmas meal this year. So, whether it’s through cooking an extra few portions of your own Christmas dinner, or donating so that we can deliver a food shop or some festive treats to a family, we are eager to get as many people involved as possible. And, of course, we are ready and waiting to receive requests from those that need the support this year so we know where to send the donations.’
How to get involved
If you’d like to donate to Free My Meal’s Christmas Food Pledge, you can either donate directly on the campaign’s website to fund contributions to be delivered, or sign up to one of the Facebook groups around the country to be connected to people in your local area looking for support.
Given that so many of us overcook at this time of year anyway, Free My Meal’s Christmas Food Pledge Promise is a perfect way to minimise waste, and help spread Christmas cheer in your local community.
Why not use The Full Freezer’s Stress-Free Christmas Dinner to advance prepare some extra portions of Christmas food? Then you’ll be ready to respond to any requests for meals over the festive period in your local area.
If you are currently struggling to put meals together, and are looking for help, sign up to the Free My Meal Facebook group. You can send a request to the Group Admin team who will link you with a volunteer cook.
For more information about Free My Meal, click here.
For more heart-warming stories of Christmas Spirit in the local community, click here.
Looking to get ahead with your Christmas Dinner, we’ve got you covered. Click here for details.
Need inspiration for what to cook to share with others in your local community? Check out the recipes from the Jolly Festive kitchen for ideas.