Two Far North caterers have been giving up their time and thousands of dollars of their own money to deliver pre-cooked gourmet meals to essential workers during the Covid-19 lockdown.
They have tried to keep their mission quiet but they've been outed by an emotional police officer who called the Advocate because he believed the two Kerikeri women — Alexa Bell of Pub Grub and Anita Jakich of Neat Eats — deserved recognition.
The officer, who did not want to be named, said the meals made a ''huge difference''.
''We're all on shift work now so preparing meals takes a back seat and all the takeaways are closed. They're giving them to all the first responders in the area. It must have cost them thousands, not to mention the time and effort involved. I think it's amazing ... I'm actually quite emotional about it,'' he said.
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The frozen meals have been delivered to police in Kerikeri, Kaikohe and Kawakawa, along with firefighters, St John Ambulance staff, doctors, vets, pharmacists, posties, courier drivers, service station workers and the odd random person on the street.
They are cooked in Bell's MPI-approved commercial kitchen under strict hygiene standards then collected and distributed by Jakich. The women have no contact to ensure there's no risk of spreading the Covid-19 virus.
Bell has so far cooked 1500 meals with 200 more to go by the end of lockdown.
''We've tried to keep it quiet. We're not doing it for recognition, we're trying to help,'' she said. ''It's been fun and I'm just happy people like my food.''
Bell said they had decided to give away meals as long as essential workers and first responders were unable to buy meals on the run.
Once cafes and takeaways started up again they would ''back away'' so their efforts didn't take income away from local businesses.
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Bell wouldn't say how much she had spent except that it was money she considered already gone. She had planned to travel to Canada and Japan this year but with both trips canned due to the Covid-19 pandemic she decided to put the money to use another way.
As a food manufacturer she was permitted to keep operating during the lockdown. The ingredients were delivered to her property, which she hadn't left in a month.
The ''amazing, bubbly'' Jakich was the ideal person to take care of deliveries because of her extensive contacts around the Mid North, Bell said.
Jakich said she had phoned Bell at the start of the lockdown to see how she was going. Though both women work with food they didn't know each other well.
Bell told her about her idea of cooking for essential service workers but said she didn't know how to deliver the meals, so Jakich — who is normally busy catering for corporate functions — offered to take care of that end of the operation.
''Alexa has the manufacturing kitchen and the wherewithal, I've got the front of house contacts,'' Jakich said.
''We're really doing it just to help people. It's the first time we've had time to do it, that's massive.''
Bell's Pub Grub meals include chilli con carne, chicken camembert, casseroles, cottage pie and lasagne, while Jakich has been adding sweet treats such as chocolate chip biscuits.