As hundreds lined the streets of Cambridge to mark Professor Stephen Hawking’s funeral on Saturday, people in need sat down to a tasty Easter lunch as a “gift” from the man himself.
Nationwide charity FoodCycle, which provides free meals for people who are hungry, lonely or isolated in the community, received a donation from the Hawking’s family ahead of the funeral. Thanks to their generosity, the charity was able to provide lunch for 50 guests, including homeless people, the elderly, families going through tough times and people experiencing mental health issues.
A card on each of the tables told guests the meal was “a gift from Stephen”.
“Our guests were really surprised and delighted when they read the cards we put out with the flowers,” Alex Collis, who runs the Cambridge branch, told HuffPost UK. “Everyone raised a glass to Professor Hawking and gave him a cheer before tucking into lunch. It was quite something to see, and we’re just really proud to have been involved.”
The charity was approached by Professor Hawking’s family who offered to make a donation on his behalf. According to Alex, the family “wanted to do something that supported the local community on the day of his funeral, especially people who are experiencing a tough time”.
FoodCycle has 34 branches nationally that are open to anyone who feels they may benefit from a free meal and a friendly chat. Guests do not need to “prove” they are in need, as the charity does not operate on a voucher or referral system like some food banks.
A free lunch is available every Saturday at Wesley Methodist Church, in Cambridge, and mainly consists of surplus produce donated locally from Sainsbury’s, the City Food Bank, Cambridge Crop Share, the Cambridge Fruit and Veg Company and Lensfield Road Farmer’s Market.
However, this week’s spread was extra special thanks to the Hawking family.
“What was especially lovely was that it was one of our regular guest’s birthday, so the volunteers presented him with a cake,” Alex said.
FoodCycle currently serves more than 850 meals each week across the country, helping those who may eat alone the rest of the week or may not be able to afford to eat.
As well the helping the community, the project is dedicated to protecting the environment. The charity has saved around 265 tonnes of food from going to waste since it was launched in 2009.
Several branches are currently looking for more volunteers to help run their weekly lunches. Find out how you can get involved here.
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