An emotional chat with the Zoom family in which the doctor’s daughter revealed that the exhausted NHS staff “lived on cornflakes” prompted former Formula 1 chief Ron Dennis CBE to launch the SaluteTheNHS campaign to deliver a million meals to operators health.
Dr. Charlotte Hall, who works in intensive care, explained to her family that after exhausting shifts of treatment for Covid-19 patients, health workers found the supermarket shelves stripped by panic shoppers or were simply too much tired to make something nutritious for themselves.
That moment prompted Mr. Dennis, who had a successful ten-year career at the top of McLaren, to create an operation from scratch to deliver healthy and fortifying meals to nurses and doctors who fight at the forefront of the pandemic, then swallowing hospitals.
Tomorrow, just three months after its launch, the operation is set to achieve its ambitious goal and deliver its one millionth meal.
The Herculean effort was made by an army of 800 volunteers, made up of recently laid-off people, pilots, farm workers and even members of the Royal Family, who prepared all meals and care packages to be delivered to the wards.
The project started with Mr Dennis, 73, who donated £ 1 million of his own money to pay for logistics equipment such as refrigeration units, forklifts and packaging lines.
He later started calling CEOs and captains of the industry to see if they would donate food and goods to the effort.
“What I found was that because I wasn’t asking for anything for myself, I could have been pretty pushy,” said Dennis. The Telegraph. “I would say I was pushing against an open door because nobody had to explain the cause to them – has really brought the best out of people. “
Among the companies to be donated were grocery giants such as Tesco and Unilever to the London-based catering company Absolute Taste, which designed the meal packages to provide the NHS staff with nourishment and sustenance.
In addition to food, the campaign also provided moisturizer and bath salt care packages to help exhausted NHS workers recover.
Audience members also intervened, as £ 743,000 was raised through sites like JustGiving, with the sum then financed by the Dennis family.
Subsequently, the delivery company Yodel joined the campaign, delivering to health workers who need to self-isolate. Yodel is owned by the Barclay family, owner of the Telegraph Media group, publisher of The Telegraph.
Once the logistics got together, Dennis used his Formula 1 contact book to convince former McLaren engineering chief Simon Roberts to direct the operation from a huge hangar in Bicester, Oxfordshire.
Dennis said, “It was very coordinated and we had morning meetings, so it was kind of a military operation. We found it very useful to create a mission so that everything we did took on the basis that Covid-19 was the enemy. So we became quite military in our approach, but this created the discipline to make it work. “
The hangar had teams of 150 volunteers who worked in shifts to churn out thousands of meals that were sent to nearly 50 hospitals at the height of distribution.
Earlier this week, volunteers were joined by the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who wore high-visibility jackets and PPE to participate in the assembly line.
“They had a sincere desire to participate,” added Dennis. “And he ran into everyone they talked to. For the volunteers, it was magical for them to experience it. “
Having achieved its formidable goal of delivering one million meals, the SaluteTheNHS operation is expected to close in mid-July when it has delivered approximately 1.1 million packages.
Dennis said there will be sadness among the hundreds of volunteers, many of whom have made new friends through the thousands of hours they have spent together to support SSN workers.
“Nobody should go back without a sense of pride,” added Dennis. “I was a facilitator, but it was the volunteers who really made everything possible.”