“Feed the Doctors”, the initiative founded by members of Budapest’s restaurant scene at the height of the pandemic, has evolved into non-profit Etesd, which means “to feed.”
Chef Márton Keve started “Feed the Doctors” in early March. He had returned home to Hungary after many years working all over the world in restaurants of the caliber of Copenhagen’s Noma to work at Budapest restaurant Easy Wine Budapest. The week Keve arrived, the restaurant closed because of COVID-19.
Keve’s idea with “Feed the Doctors” to support healthcare workers fighting the virus by providing them with fresh, healthy meals. With the help of well-known Hungarian blogger András Jókuti, he started a Facebook group that soon had more than 4,000 members.
Food was prepared by volunteer chefs and kitchen staff who had lost their jobs because of the pandemic.
Other restaurants, supermarket chains and small and multinational food manufacturers joined the initiative. They donated high quality ingredients, including meat, organic vegetables, and even personal hygiene packages. Automotive dealerships provided vehicles and taxi drivers helped deliver food.
By the beginning of June, around 50,000 portions of food had been delivered to healthcare workers providing COVID-19 related medical care.
Iain Lindsay, British Ambassador to Hungary and one of the people behind the Highlights of Hungary initiative was a keen supporter of “Feed the Doctors” and helped spread the word about the campaign.
Quoted on the Xpatloop.com website, he said “I am delighted that the British Embassy has joined the British Chamber of Commerce in Hungary to support the ‘Etesd a dokit!’ campaign... We at the British Ambassador’s Residence have provided support by cooking meals for delivery to healthcare workers at Szent László hospital where medical staff tried their very best to save the life of my late deputy, Steven Dick as he fought against this terrible virus. This is a small, but an effective way in which we can say thank you to these brave healthcare staff.”
Founded by Tibor Remete of Super Channel, Highlights of Hungary has been bringing good people and good causes together and building a value-creating community in Hungary since 2013. Each year, Highlights of Hungary collects outstanding stories and achievements that set an example, raise awareness and benefit society.
Zita Pancsovay, of the highly regarded Borganika gastro space at Klauzál Market Hall on the Buda side just up from the Danube is one of the co-founders of Etesd. along with Keve, Kata Farkas, Márta Serfőző and Xénia Drégelyi.
Although Borganika is famous for its dinners, events and cooking classes, it also holds a restaurant license. When the crisis hit, Borganika was forced to close.
Delivering food was Pancsovay’s first idea. But she realized she’d have to compete with other Budapest restaurants doing delivery and building up their online systems. Also, she explains, “our team and kitchen were not set up to deliver small portions to people ad hoc throughout the day.” She decided she’d rather help the healthcare workers, even if it meant not being paid.
After spotting the Facebook page, Pancsovay became a driving force in “Feed the Doctors.” Now, as part of the Etesd Non-profit Public Benefit Company, Pancsovay is a member of what she describes as “a dream team with great spirit.”
Etesd came about because the team wanted to continue with an initiative that “touched and motivated so many.”
The non-profit aims to support people impacted by the pandemic by providing healthy meals made using donated ingredients from supermarkets, grocers, food and drink producers and other members of the industry. Etesd partners with restaurants and catering businesses so chefs and staff whose employment may not be secure are still able to work, then these meals are delivered to families and children who need it most.
Meals are prepared in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way and delivered in biodegradable packaging. In the week beginning June 5, Etesd delivered 390 meals as part of the #KIOSK Angel program. Etesd aims for zero waste.
As Etesd says, “We are convinced that an environmentally conscious lifestyle is crucial, now more than ever. This is why, as soon as circumstances allow, we will initiate knowledge sharing projects on the topic for young people, the most affected and receptive target audience.”
Although the general public has welcomed the idea of restaurants providing food for free to the less fortunate, some members of the food and drink industry have reservations.
Their argument is that the restaurant sector has been among those hit hardest by the pandemic. They suggest that restaurants were caught up in a wave of unfair, irrational expectations driven by social media which led them to use up reserves they needed to survive in future. This will have consequences now that restaurants are reopening and, certainly in Budapest, having to fight to survive.
With her economist’s background, I’m sure Pancsovay is well aware of business realities. How will she bring Borganika back to life while helping to drive Etesd and help the needy?
Pancsovay doesn’t see it as a problem. “I’ll start slow and manage the event space in such a way that I can handle Etesd’s work as well,” she says. “With good organization, I’m sure I can handle both. Everyone is talking about a second wave of COVID-19 coming in the fall, we need to be ready to help people all over again if that happens.”
If you would like to contribute to the great work being done by Etesd, go to their Facebook page, Etesd.hu, which is also its own website address.