Pandemic Pizza joined forces with the Trafalgar Square Refreshment Hub for the first time on Wednesday to provide homemade pizza, refreshments, fresh fruit and shower referrals to more than 200 homeless people in central London. The new partnership set up under the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square.
When the pandemic began, many of the services used by street homeless in London closed. While an emergency council scheme stepped in to accommodate some people, it didn't reach everyone, and this group has been joined by new homeless people, who have recently lost their jobs and accommodation in hospitality and catering and are stranded in London.
Pandemic Pizza was conceived when students Alfie Fletcher (19), his sister Amber (17) and girlfriend Allegra Della Ragione (19) decided to offer free homemade Neapolitan pizzas to homeless people and frontline workers. Hiring a mobile wood-fired pizza oven, the team has made hundreds of pizzas with stop-offs around the UK to help during the pandemic.
The Trafalgar Square Refreshment Hub was set up a few weeks ago by volunteers from Farm Street Church, Holy Apostles Church Pimlico, Westminster Cathedral and Holy Redeemer Church Chelsea, alongside Westminster City Council, Metropolitan Police and Caritas Westminster. Spearheaded by Farm Street Church volunteer Anthony Doran and Holy Apostle volunteer Pierre Sebag, the project is on site seven days a week with the Thursday and Friday service provided by Sikh charity Nishkam SWAT.
The Hub has been serving up to 200 homeless people a day with snacks, cookies, hot and cold drinks and fresh fruit, donated by the Connaught Hotel and Claridges. Guests, who maintain socially-distanced queues, are also offered access to free showers and laundry services at the London Jesus Centre in nearby Margaret Street.
Anthony commented: "The coronavirus pandemic has made existing difficulties for the most vulnerable in London even worse. While many homeless people have been given temporary accommodation, a large number (some newly homeless) are still living on the streets. Those living in accommodation aren't always provided with meals. It's exciting to partner with Alfie and his team at Pandemic Pizza. They're doing great work offering high quality fresh homemade pizzas to homeless people and frontline workers.
"Their efforts complement our ongoing support to London's homeless through the Central London Catholic Churches (CLCC) Trafalgar Square Refreshment Hub. We're hoping to continue collaborating in the coming weeks."
Fr Dominic Robinson, Chair of Justice & Peace in the Diocese of Westminster and Parish Priest at Farm Street, said: "Huge thanks to Alfie and all at Pandemic Pizza for such a fantastic gift today to our homeless guests. I'm sure our fantastic team of volunteers are so grateful too. This crisis is truly bringing out the best in so many wanting to look out for the poorest in society. Mille grazie e coraggio!"
Circo Salvo, owner of 50 Kalo (one of Italy's best pizzerias), described the project as "Fantastico!"
Alfie said, "The Trafalgar Square Refreshment Hub is providing much-needed services to some of the most vulnerable people living in London during this pandemic. We're thrilled to work together to help as many people as we can during this time."
With schools and universities closed during the pandemic, Alfie, his sister Amber and girlfriend Allegra had time to start testing the recipes of famous Neapolitan pizzaiolos from YouTube. But without an expensive wood-fired oven, he had to pile bricks in a rusty barbeque to get a similar effect.
Alfie said: "One night we were having pizza and we were thinking about how we could share a little bit of happiness and for me, pizza is the ultimate joy."
He hired a wood-fired oven to slot in the back of a beaten up Land Rover. Then he could park and deliver hot pizzas to homeless people and key workers.
"Front-line staff are keeping us alive and homeless shelters are fuller than ever. We need to show them some love".
Alfie and his team hand-make the dough the night before so that it ferments in the Neapolitan style. They use Shipton Mill '00' flour (a traditional stone mill 10 miles from his house - the stone mill retains more of the wheat's nutrients than modern mills), San Marzano tomatoes, Fior di Latte and basil grown in his parents' garden. It is a healthy and complete meal. The oven gets so hot, cooking each pizza takes only a minute. He, Amber and Allegra have delivered over 500 pizzas. They have been to many local homeless shelters, care homes and ambulance services.
"We have registered with the council, obtained public liability insurance and a food safety certificate. We are ready, but we need help paying for materials and overheads. From 25k sacks of flour to the rental of the oven, although each pizza is cheap, it adds up each day. We need help. The money donated will cover the costs to feed fresh, hand-made pizzas to those most affected by the pandemic."
Each Pizza costs around £2.50 to make. Alfie has now set up a Go Fund Me page and hope to raise £5,000 in order to make 2,000 pizzas.
If you would like to sponsor a Pandemic Pizza for someone - please visit: www.gofundme.com/f/5sazz-pandemic-pizza/
Pandemic Pizza - http://pandemicpizza.co.uk
Farm Street Church: www.farmstreet.org.uk/ (Includes details of donate facilities to support their work with the Hub.)
Watch a BBC TV report here: www.instagram.com/p/CAdtekoHpDy/
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