Lee Hughes, longstanding landlord of the Red Hackle on the Scotch Estate in Jarrow has transformed the pub into a community kitchen where he is cooking up to 100 meals a day to deliver to those most at risk from Covid-19.
The former independent councillor has run the pub for more than 30 years.
On Friday, March 20 he was forced to call last orders until further notice, when the government announced all pubs, bars and restaurants were to close in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.
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“I was told I was going to lose my job and my livelihood, and had four hours to shut my business down, so I decided to make a change,” said Lee.
“I set up a community kitchen in the pub overnight and started cooking meals for the elderly and vulnerable residents in the area - those who are going to be suffering the most.”
Lee went from cooking 20 meals a day to churning out between 80-100, five days a week.
He also regularly supplies meals for UTS Engineering employees and has turned the pub into a food bank collection point.
He continued: “This change of career is certainly not what I had planned but if I can’t earn a living, I thought I would turn my hand to something else and lift a few people's spirits in the meantime.
“I’ll carry on doing it for as long as it’s needed.”
Friends, neighbours and former colleagues have been donating to help him reach more people in need during the crisis.
And local businesses, from corner shops to grassroots football teams, have signed up to ‘sponsor a menu’.
“I’m a very community-orientated person, but now they have returned the favour,” Lee added.
“Everyone has been unbelievably supportive with their donations – and in spreading the word – it’s just been amazing.”
For more information visit Hackle Community Kitchen Facebook page, send a message or contact 07437474350.