Sydney restaurant Hearth & Soul is re-opening its doors, this time as a soup kitchen serving free takeaway meals to anyone who has suffered job or revenue loss due to COVID-19. Owner Rachel Jelley closed Heath & Soul back in November to pursue new cooking opportunities but said she now wanted to use the premises do what she could to assist her community.
“COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on the hospitality industry, and many other industries have been terribly affected too. What this means in real human impact is that thousands of people in Sydney alone have lost their jobs literally overnight. These are low-income workers with little to fall back on. They can’t pay their rent, they can’t buy groceries, and they can’t get jobs. Their industry just disappeared. These are also the people who have been working tirelessly to provide you with the dining-out experiences you love.
They’ve also been cutting your hair, doing your physio, making your coffee and baking your croissants, and now their livelihoods have simply evaporated overnight, in silence. So, I want to feed them. It so happens that I have an empty restaurant premises in Sydney right now, and I want to open her doors again, this time to offer a free meal to anyone who needs it.”
Rachel also works with local, seasonal food, and those of her suppliers who are able to, including Feather and Bone pasture-raised butchers, have come onboard to support her, meaning the meals will not only be free, but made from gorgeous local, organic veges and pasture-raised meat. Rachel has also received support from Jo Chun Yan intuitive branding and designer, who has created the online registration experience, and Pendulum Communications, who are helping to get the word out.
Rachel’s experience of the New Year’s Eve fires has contributed to her desire to help. “When I was caught up in the NYE fires, I desperately wanted to do something to help the communities that were devastated. But the reality was that I was there on holiday, I wasn’t part of the local community, and I could (and had to) leave. Of course, I donated to all the relevant charities, and we offered our assistance to every one of the locals we met in the evacuation centre.
But there was very little practical help we could actually offer. This time it’s different. This is my community (and everyone else’s!) whose lives are being turned upside down. So many are now facing incredibly uncertain futures. We’ve opened our home to those that we can (and yes, it’s that bad, you try saving enough to fund an unknowable number of months rent on the average hospitality wage). And now I want to open my restaurant too.”
Meal services are listed on the Hearth & Soul website, and are open to anyone, from any industry, employees and business owners alike, who has been adversely affected Covid-19. If you’d like a free meal, you’ll need to register via the Hearth & Soul website. This is to ensure there is enough food prepared for each service. “I’d hate for anyone to turn up and be disappointed’” says Rachel. “This is the best way I can think of to manage that.” Once you’ve registered, simply pop by on the allocated day and time to pick it up. “Don’t be shy!”, says Rachel. “We want to feed as many people as we can.” Further services will be announced in the coming days.
Rachel has raised enough to serve about 1700 meals, “but of course we’d love to do more.” You can donate to support this initiative on Rachel’s Go Fund Me page.