Lewis wins top local hero accolade for providing healthy meals to people in need

By Press Office

It’s always heartwarming to see QMU students get the recognition they deserve. We are delighted to learn that Lewis McLachlan has been singled out for a top local hero award for his tireless work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Lewis was awarded Health Champion of the Year by the Edinburgh Local Heroes Awards for his Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts initiative – a voluntary project, which has ensured that people in need have received daily packs of healthy meals on a free, non-judgement basis. Out of all of the deserving award winners at the recent award ceremony, it was Lewis who really stood out for the judges. Winning not one, but two awards, he was presented with the top accolade - the Local Hero Award - for his selfless support of others

Each year the Awards are run by the Edinburgh Evening News to highlight the incredible contribution that many unsung heroes make to the local community. Due to social distancing rules, the event, held in October, had its first ever virtual award ceremony.

Before the Covid-19 outbreak, Lewis, a former chef, was studying towards his MSc Gastronomy at QMU, but as we moved into lockdown, he put his studies on hold to set up Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts. This volunteer-led initiative uses furloughed or redundant chefs in empty or unused kitchens, who divert surplus food from restaurants and businesses and transfom it into healthy daily meal packs. These are then delivered free of charge to people who are shielding, isolating or living with poverty. To date, Lewis’s initiative has provided over 230,000 meals to people all over Edinburgh on a non-judgmental and non-profit basis.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts aims to play a role in the fight against food poverty, and has the values of respect and solidarity at its core, rather than pity or saviourism. The initiative engages members of the hospitality community who are able and willing to use their skills to help others, providing a space where they can practice their passion for food and develop their skills. Essentially, it provides them with the means to feed others, whilst also encouraging their own enterprise and ambitions.

Stan Blackley, Programme Leader of the MSc Gastronomy at Queen Margaret University, said: “QMU has a proud history of responding to the most pressing issues facing society. There is nothing more pressing today than dealing with the impact of this global pandemic, which has highlighted and amplified the issues of food poverty and the lack of access to food for many within our society.

“Lewis has built on his own commitment to doing good and used the skills and knowledge that he’s gained on the MSc Gastronomy to make a positive impact on the lives of others. Not only has he created an initiative which is helping to feed those in need, he has helped develop people working within the hospitality industry during the sector’s most challenging time.

“Lewis embodies the values of the University – particularly the aim of making a positive difference to the world around us. This has not only struck a chord with Edinburgh Local Hero Awards, it helps to motive and inspire the student, graduate and staff community at Queen Margaret University to work together to create a better world.”

Stan concluded: “We are delighted that the Edinburgh Local Heroes Awards has recognised Lewis’s efforts to help his community whilst putting his own academic ambitions on the back burner. We are keen to see how we can support Lewis to develop this important work and fulfil his academic potential in the year ahead.”

Lewis confirmed: “We are constantly looking to grow our volunteer community and I’d love to involve more QMU staff and students as we look to expand over the winter to help meet increasing demand.”

Notes to Editor

Find out more about Lewis’s work at emptykitchens.co.uk.

Find out about QMU's MSc in Gastronomy.

For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh on E: lrussell@qmu.ac.uk, M: 07711 011239

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