And now, following a request from the Duchess of Sussex, the women of the Hubb Community Kitchen in London have launched a new service to help families struggling during the coronavirus lockdown. Starting Monday, the group of more than 17 women will begin batch-cooking 250 to 300 nutritious meals a day, three days a week, from their own homes.
“The spirit of the Hubb Community Kitchen has always been one of caring, giving back, and helping those in need, initially in Grenfell and now throughout the U.K.,” Meghan said in a statement shared with BAZAAR.com. “A home-cooked meal from one neighbor to another, when they need it most, is what community is all about.”
She adds, “I’m so proud of the women of the Hubb Community Kitchen, and the continued support the Felix Project gives them to carry out these acts of goodwill, which at this moment in time are urgently needed.”
The initiative has also received support from another charity close to the Sussexes. When Prince Harry spent time with the sports charity Street Games last February, he saw the potential for the women of the Hubb kitchen to collaborate with their “Fit and Fed” initiative, which tackles the holiday gap of hunger, inactivity, and isolation that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds often faced. Now, a network of volunteers from the charity will help deliver meals cooked by the Hubb women to the doorsteps of vulnerable Londoners.
Food redistribution charity The Felix Project, which has already launched an emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis, is also supporting efforts by supplying surplus produce collected from wholesalers, restaurants, and supermarkets. More than 175 crates of food (the equivalent of almost 5,000 meals) have already been donated to the group.
On Tuesday, April 14, Meghan joined five of the women from the community kitchen via video call from Los Angeles, where she praised them for the hard work they’re about to begin. Hubb kitchen manager Leila Hedjem was on Zoom call alongside Cherine Mallah, Halima Al-Hudafi, Oxana Sinitsyna, and Jennifer Odonkor, who have all met Meghan before.
Reflecting on their efforts creating the New York Times best seller Together: Our Community Cookbook, Meghan told the group, “What was so great is you look back at that first day [we met] and then however many visits later and going, ‘Yeah, we’re just going to make a cookbook’ and not knowing what a huge success it was going to be. And that’s a testament to you where I felt, again, it’s inspired so many people.”
Also joining the project from Monday is Hubb project manager Intalak Alsaiegh, who has formed a close bond with the duchess during her many visits to the West London–based Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, where the kitchen is based. She previously told BAZAAR.com, “She has a big heart and shows us all so much warmth. We’ve always felt like she is one of us. One of our community.” Leila Hedjem, Cherine Mallah, Halima Al-Hudafi, Oxana Sinitsyna, Jennifer Odonkor, Faiza Bellini, Jaipreet Bharj, Munira Mahmud, Ahlam Saeid, Lillian Olwa, and Dayo Gilmore will also be helping prepare meals from their home kitchens.
Another friendly face supporting the efforts is three-Michelin-star chef Clare Smyth, who created the menu for the Sussexes’ May 2018 wedding and has visited the Hubb kitchen on a number of occasions and even helped teach new skills to a number of women involved in this new project. “The work of the Hubb kitchen and the Felix Project is a powerful force for good in our community,” she says. “Their work has never been more important than at this time. Countless charities are more in need now than ever. We must all join forces to take care of the most vulnerable in our society. Providing healthy and nutritious meals is crucial to helping people get through this.”
Earlier this week, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex volunteered with Project Angel Food in Los Angeles, spending two days helping deliver food parcels to people with life-threatening illnesses. Meghan has a long history of hunger-fighting activism, including voluntary work at a soup kitchen in L.A.’s Skid Row with her mother at the age of 13 and even on the set of Suits. During the second season of the show, Meghan took it upon herself to fight insurance policy issues—and purchase several refrigerators—in order for untouched craft service foods to be donated to homeless shelters in Toronto.
This latest initiative with the Hubb kitchen coincides with Meghan’s announcing her support of the London newspaper Evening Standard’s campaign to raise money to provide food to poor, elderly, and vulnerable people in the British capital during the coronavirus epidemic. “I’m equally moved by the many people who are contributing to the Evening Standard’s ‘Food for London Now’ campaign to raise money for these vital organizations in the wake of COVID-19,” she said in a statement this morning.
Max Curtin, CEO of The Felix Project, which is supporting both initiatives and currently delivering more than 28 tonnes of food a day across the U.K., says, “The women of Hubb Community Kitchen came together in the face of tragedy and they have stepped up yet again in the face of a global pandemic. At The Felix Project, we have also scaled up our operations very quickly in order to ensure we can meet the increased demand the crisis has created, both here in West London, and across the capital. We stand together with all of our partners to get food to people most at risk of experiencing hunger and malnutrition in this time of need.”