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Delivering hot meals to vulnerable residents from The Duke

Words and drawings by Kevin Dean

Two days before the official Covid-19 lockdown, Fiona and Andrew Harvey, along with their daughter Charlotte, of the Duke of Buckingham pub, in Old Portsmouth, began preparing food for the elderly and vulnerable. ‘We knew we’d have to close the pub, but we wanted to find a way of staying open by providing, top quality, affordable meals, delivered safely to people who were isolated at home, or in sheltered accommodation, explained Fiona.

Eight weeks later and with the help of 26 volunteers, the pub has prepared over 6,500 hot meals for people all over the city, plus free meals for the Lifehouse, a support centre for the homeless and people with addictions.

Fiona Harvey of The Duke of Buckingham, who started the operation, along with her husband Andrew and daughter Charlotte

At £5.50 for a hot meal and a desert, or for 3 days £16.50 and £30 for 7 days, the pub doesn’t make money from the operation, ‘we just about cover our costs, but we all get a huge satisfaction from knowing we are meeting the needs of so many people who may not otherwise get a regular hot meal’, said Fiona.

Toto and John cooking in the kitchen

The pub’s chairs and tables have been piled high and the saloon bar has been turned into a communications centre. Marion, takes calls from new and regular customers, placing their orders from a menu that changes weekly, with both meat and vegetarian options. Thursday night offers Italian dishes, while on Friday its fish and chips, steak night on Saturdays, along with a traditional roast on Sundays.

Marion takes food orders by phone

Ian checks the paperwork at one of the preparation tables – infront of the bar

With the orders taken, the kitchen busily cooks and packs the meals into individual recyclable containers, which are in turn packed into sealed bags and placed into insulated boxes ready for delivery by van, often by Steve and Julia. Residents who live nearby are delivered to on foot, by other volunteers, including Penny, Zack and Mark, all dressed in gloves, masks and visors. ‘We leave the food on people’s doorsteps or in foyers and keep a safe distance when residents open their doors explained Matt, ‘very often we are the only human contact our customers have, so we might have a chat before we go.’

Julia, packs the meals into insulated boxes ready for delivery

Zack, delivering meals to the door

With the lockdown restrictions being gradually eased how long does the Duke of Buckingham plan to continue their work? ‘We think vulnerable people are going to have to stay in their homes for sometime to come, we will be here for them as long as we are needed’ said Fiona.
If you, or someone you know is considered to be vulnerable to the Covid 19 virus, just call: 023 9229 4491 or

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