Sally's meals help thank staff for their care

Chef Sally Newall, who was part of the Ashford Vineyard meals project. She is wearing a black top and pictured against a black background. Tubs of ice cream are stacked on top of each other next to her.

Published on 8 April 2021

A chef who needed hospital treatment for Covid-19 repaid staff for their kindness by joining a project providing hot meals for frontline teams.

Sally Newall was cared for in Cambridge J1 ward at the William Harvey Hospital in November and was overwhelmed by the dedication of the staff who looked after her.

So when she heard about Ashford Vineyard’s meals project she leapt at the chance to be involved. Sally was one of a small team of professional cooks who prepared nutritious meals that were delivered to the hospital to give staff a practical gift of something hot to eat during or after a busy shift.

The mum, who lives near Ashford and runs Simply Ice Cream as well as working with her mum on Simply Catering Kent, said: “My father was a GP and he had worked at the old Ashford hospital so I already had a lot of respect for the medical profession.

“But I don’t think most people have any idea of the impact of the pandemic on their lives and workload.

“When I was in hospital they were simply amazing. They are doing the most incredible job and were so cheerful and efficient. They were always smiling and couldn’t do enough for everyone.”

The whole family, including Sally’s 80-year-old mother, tested positive for Covid-19 in early November, but only Sally needed hospital treatment after her oxygen levels dropped dangerously low

She said: “We had been really careful because my mum was vulnerable. When I started coughing I didn’t think anything of it but a friend insisted I had a test and it was positive.

“My husband and my mum then tested positive, but for her it was only one day of feeling a bit grotty then she was fine.

“I didn’t think I was that ill so I wasn’t scared but when they x-rayed my lungs they could see how bad it was.

“Luckily I responded well to the medication but not everyone was so lucky.”

Sally had already been donating ice cream to Kent Food Hubs, based in space owned by Ashford Vineyard and, during one of her regular drop-offs, pastor Kat Brown asked if she would consider getting involved with the meals project.

She said: “About 70 per cent of our ice cream customers have had to close so business has been very quiet. It was lovely to be back in the kitchen again with a real purpose.

“We had such fantastic support from friends and local people who donated ingredients, while others made financial donations to help pay for the food.

“It was amazing how many people wanted to help and to do their bit in supporting the hospital and the staff.”

The project was also supported by Ian Waghorn of Kentish Dining, the team at Lily’s Social Kitchen, Graham Green of Green Herring Catering, and former pub boss Nino Costa. More than 4,000 meals were delivered to the William Harvey Hospital between January and the end of March this year.

Clare Hardwick, head of inpatient therapies for East Kent Hospitals, said teams had been overwhelmed by the project – the meals and also the messages of support from local people that accompanied them.

She said: “It’s impossible to put into words how grateful we are to the whole team who made this project happen, and the impact it had on everyone at the hospital.

“We know the chefs went to great lengths to provide us with such delicious meals, donating their time and expertise.

“It is an amazing achievement for our community to have provided more than 4,000 meals for our hard-working staff and their kindness will never be forgotten.”