Tipsy Pigs provide free food for NHS staff

THE catering company that runs the café at The Lightbox museum and art gallery in Woking is providing free food for NHS staff.

The Tipsy Pigs was set up five years ago by James Farmer, Carla Williams and Neil Tompkins, who were friends at Fullbrook School in New Haw.

The Tipsy Pigs founders, Carla Williams, James Farmer, centre, and Neil Tompkins

James has an events, communication and administrative background while Carla and Neil are chefs who worked at the Sands at Bleak House restaurant and bar on the edge of Horsell Common.

They ran the catering business alongside other jobs until they won the contract to run the Seasons Café at The Lightbox and were then invited to run the café at Guildford Cathedral.

Earlier this year The Tipsy Pigs joined the networking group Surrey Event Professionals, which then launched The Surrey Drive Campaign to support NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.

“After hearing the heart-breaking stories of NHS workers unable to buy food at the start of the pandemic, this project stepped in to offer prepared meals to the Royal Surrey County Hospital,” James said.

Each caterer in the networking group was asked to provide meals at cost, which is covered by crowdfunding donations. Other members of the group added their expertise and work, including deliveries and social media publicity and fundraising.

The initiative now provides more than 4,000 meals a week to the Royal Surrey and other local hospitals.

“We jumped at the chance to get involved. Its great being able to help and we are all getting lovely feedback from the NHS staff,” James said.

Carla and Neil are working in the kitchen at Guildford Cathedral, making about 1,000 meals a week, including providing a curry pack delivery on Friday nights and preparing barbecue packs, which are bringing in a small amount of income.

James said that the cathedral and The Lightbox have waived their rents during the lockdown and the museum and gallery has set up an online donation page to support The Tipsy Pigs, which has had to furlough its staff.

James is working from home and home schooling his young children, while his wife works as a contractor for a government department. He said he hoped that the cafés would be able to reopen on 1 July.

“We have no costs at the moment, but when we reopen it will be challenging, because the numbers might have to be reduced because of social distancing. A lot of our income comes from events, and they are cancelled until at least September.”

James said the unusual name for the company came from the idea that food and drink should be about having fun. “It’s a name that gets across the message that we are about catering for the good times.”

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