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Student's food delivery business steps up to help feed the vulnerable

With the COVID19 pandemic drastically altering the lives of people and businesses across the world, one student enterprise has adapted to the dire circumstances to help those most in need.

By Jack Charters, Deputy Features Editor

With the COVID19 pandemic drastically altering the lives of people and businesses across the world, the student enterprise 'Rice n Spice' has adapted to the dire circumstances to help those most in need.

An air of uncertainty, coupled with exceptionally potent herd-mentality, has led to widespread, panic-induced stockpiling and large food shops which disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable through depriving them of their ability to feed themselves.

Boxed meals, such as fan favourite Satay Chicken, are home delivered by Rice n Spice | Epigram/Rice n Spice

Simmy Dhillon, a final year economics student and founder of Rice n Spice, spoke with Epigram about how his business has adapted to the need to help the vulnerable, whilst maintaining the social restrictions imposed by the Government.

Read about the rise of Rice n Spice from University Hall side-hustle to 6 figure business.

Those with significant underlying health conditions and the elderly, are unable to leave their homes for 12 weeks as part of the Government’s ‘shielding’ initiative. However supermarket delivery slots, alongside toilet roll, are fast becoming a rare, coveted commodity in this surreal disruption of the norm.

As a result, the most vulnerable cannot leave their home to buy food and have sporadic opportunities to order it in – that is not to mention the limited options owing to depleted supermarket stock. Yet Rice N Spice has overcome this issue by offering a ‘contact-less delivery system’. I asked Simmy how this delivery system reduces exposure:

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BBC: “The Key Message is that we’re not going to run out of food. Shoppers should buy what they need.” 🧻 - NHS: “it’s very unlikely it [coronavirus] can be spread through things like packages or food” 📦 - Public Health England: “Avoid gatherings and non-essential travel” 🏟 - If you would prefer to avoid supermarkets at such times, we can deliver ready to eat meals to your door. We will also do so using ‘contactless delivery’ ✋🏾🚫 - The key message is this: don’t panic but don’t do take unnecessary risks. Stay safe, stay happy, stay healthy 🤗🧼 - Order Deadline is 9pm tonight, if we can help you (or anyone you know), visit RNSMEALS.COM by 9pm tonight 🤗📱 - @rice_n_spice_ @rice_n_spice_ @rice_n_spice_ @rice_n_spice_

A post shared by Rice n Spice | Meal Prep (@rice_n_spice_) on

‘Our clients only interact with one person, our delivery drivers (Mum, Dad, Uncle Courtney or my Brother Jhai). Our drivers wear gloves whilst delivering meal packages and leave the packages on doorsteps. Depending on the clients' preferences, we'll either knock on the door and then get a safe distance away, or we will send the client a text to let them know their meals are with them.’

In addition, Rice n Spice have committed to helping the vulnerable by extending a discount to those aged 60 or above and to people with serious underlying health conditions. As a family-run, local business, Simmy hopes that the gesture will foster a strong sense of community, without people taking advantage of the offer.

All vulnerable people are given free delivery and a flat rate of £4 per meal, regardless of their meal plan. Normally meals can cost up to £7 per meal, so with £3 off and no delivery charge, people will be benefitting from over 50% off. It is noteworthy that Simmy has not taken a penny of salary.

EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has stated 'there is no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus'.

Further to this, they have pledged to support the homeless. They have been partnered with a local charity (Feed Up Warm Up) for the last 6 months, where they donate meals each week to distribute to rough sleepers. The outbreak has prompted Rice n Spice to increase their food donations to Feed Up Warm Up, since the reduction in footfall in cities across the UK has led to reduced support for those asking for money.

With a significant amount of food establishments closing for the foreseeable future, I was curious as to why Rice n Spice had not followed suit. I posed the question to Simmy:

‘We had to really consider whether we should remain open. After much thought and discussion, we decided that continuing to operate was the most socially beneficial decision - we are one of the few businesses who can really help support others in such a time since we operate a delivery service providing essential goods.’

‘Furthermore the EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) has stated 'there is no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus'. The virus is respiratory so it is most likely to spread is person to person, however, the way which we operate minimises social interaction whilst ensuring that people get the essential goods which they need.’

Ever-changing Government advice and restrictions have dictated our lives for the past two weeks in order to prevent the spread of COVID19; from thorough hand scrubbing to social distancing. All of the measures have been translated across into Rice n Spices modus operandi, in order to ensure no  contamination.

‘We operate from our purpose-built commercial kitchen, which we keep spotless. Many of our staff are local people so they travel only short distances to come to work. We regularly examine staff health and we have decided to reduce the number of staff we have on-site for the foreseeable future.’

‘Within the kitchen itself, we have a strict food hygiene system in place. All staff wore gloves whilst handling food prior to the new measures, but now our staff are also wearing masks whilst on-site. We have altered the layout of our kitchen, ensuring work surfaces are more spread out, keeping in line with social distancing guidelines.’

Furthermore, despite significantly higher demand, the company has not brought on any more staff because it would ‘conflict with our heightened safety measures’.

To Simmy, the three main concerns about Rice n Spice during this time of pandemic are that ‘the staff love their jobs and are well rewarded, the clients love the product and it enables them to live happier healthier lives, and that I get to solve meaningful problems and have an impact.’

As proven by the example set by Rice n Spice, it is important that the wellbeing of society’s vulnerable is prioritised over the profiteering of businesses. After the storm has passed, hopefully it will be a trend that continues into the future.

Featured Image: Rice n Spice

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