Princess Anne meets charities who provided 400,000 meals

Princess Anne has met the charities who provided 400,000 meals to people on Canvey Island, Essex, during the pandemic.

And she presented the Canvey Island Town Council’s Community Group of the Year Award to the local St Vincent de Paul Society.

SVP group president Tony Roche, pictured with the Princess Royal, said: “This was a lovely way of saying thank you to all the people who have had a hand in this amazing operation.”

The coordinated effort began before the pandemic struck when Tony realised that the local foodbank would be closed during Christmas 2019

The SVP joined with other local charities to fill the gap. And then, in March 2020, the lockdown began.

From his spare bedroom, Tony, who himself had to shield during the pandemic, began the task of galvanising the group of charities to feed the many vulnerable families on the island.

Local patient transport charity Wyvern Community Transport moved food around from local supermarkets, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, the Co-operative and One Stop, who provided tonnes of food every week for the initiative.

The food project gathered pace as local people and groups gave their support, including St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School – which has an active SVP Mini Vinnies group – the Salvation Army, which provided food parcels and support, St Nicholas CofE church, and the local Baptist church, from where the SVP distributed food parcels.

There was also support from Omnino Restaurants whose outlets in Leadenhall Street and St Paul’s in London had to temporarily close under Covid restrictions.

Restaurant owner Ruth Cezar and husband, chef Eduardo Barsotti, cooked more than 700 meals in the family kitchen at her house on Canvey Island.

Ruth said: “It was an honour to cook meals for the community from March to June during the first lockdown.

“We served around 700 hot meals in partnership with the SVP.”

Before leaving the event, the Princess Royal presented with a bouquet of flowers by Tony’s granddaughter Amelie Merrick of St Joseph’s Roman Catholic School Mini Vinnies.

Tony’s wife, Frances, said: “I can’t tell you how much of a unique operation this was and how proud I am of this group, everyone was incredible. To see the whole operation laid out before the Princess was a fantastic moment.”

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