Supermart serves up tasty offer of free meals
A weekend free meals programme started by a supermarket operator to help people left struggling by the Covid-19 crisis is to be extended from today.
Supermart, which has branches in Hamilton and St George, said it planned to cook about 600 meals between the two locations on Saturdays and Sundays.
Tredick Gorham, the Supermart president, explained the scheme started in the St George branch nine weeks ago with about 300 meals prepared every weekend and had proved so successful it was decided the Front Street store would join in and cover the central parishes.
He added that helping agencies would be recruited to handle the distribution of the meals prepared in Hamilton.
Mr Gorham said he was approached by Rowan Ramotar, the manager at Somer's Supermart in St George's, with the proposal to help out people hard hit by the economic impact of the coronavirus.
Mr Gorham added: “I thought it was an extraordinarily good idea because we are going through unprecedented times and we have to do things differently to support the community.
“Churches were doing meals on week days, but not on Saturdays and Sundays, so we started doing meals in our kitchen at the weekends.”
Mr Gorham said the supermarket group had teamed up with community members in St George's, and the distribution and packaging was handled at the St George's Community Centre.
He added: “We are just cooking the food — we have partners who are doing the distribution. We started doing 100 meals per day and now we are up to 150 a day.”
Mr Gorham said the store had stopped its 5 per cent discount day to help fund the programme.
He added: “The need was there before the virus and it has got exponentially larger since.
“We talked to customers, staff and community leaders and decided that if we stopped doing our 5 per cent discount day and took that money for the meals then we could possibly make it sustainable.”
He added that the stores were forced to stop its hot food and salad bar service because of Covid-19 regulations on self-service and its kitchens had time for the project.
Mr Gorham said the meals were designed to be balanced, with protein such as chicken or fish, starch, such as rice or potatoes, and vegetables, as well as a bread roll and cookie.
He added that a team of volunteers had signed up to help with distribution in St George's and Renée Ming, Lovitta Foggo and Kim Swan, all Progressive Labour Party MPs in the area, had also pitched in to help.
Ms Ming, who started her own meals programme from her kitchen, said: “It's a really good thing. There's a lot of need and people really, really appreciate what we do.
“We personally deliver, so there is discretion and people can keep their dignity.
“The whole community has pulled together, we have had donations of gloves and containers, cases of food — it is a huge community effort and I hope it inspires others.”
Mr Gorham said the reaction to the scheme had been good and there had been no complaints about the axing of the 5 per cent discount days.
He added the programme would continue to the end of the year and that, if it was possible, he wanted to extend it.
Mr Gorham said: “We want to make it sustainable in the future — we are committed to this year and would like to continue next year.
“We as a country have done very well and, despite difficult decisions, we have had good leadership. Now we have to deal with the after-effects.”
• UPDATE: This story was amended to make clear that the distribution and packaging took place at the St George's Community Centre, and to remove an incorrect line that the supermarket group had teamed up with the St George's Community Trust.