The ‘Ehna Maakom’ (We are with you) initiative has been launched to extend to a helping hand to the medical staff fighting the coronavirus by providing hot, fresh, and healthy meals for free.
In Egypt, many private entities and charity organisations have hailed the efforts of medical workers, including doctors, nurses, administrators and hospital staff as they battle COVID-19 in quarantine hospitals.
It was this sense of responsibility that triggered the initiative.
“Chefs were keen to provide healthcare workers with hot meals just like they might have at home. We really care and we try to make them feel cared for,” internationally certified Egyptian chef Mohamed Salah, a participant in the initiative, told Ahram Online.
The initiative was founded by Nagwa Fathi, who owns a food catering business.
Fathi has been working in the culinary field for seven years, and her kitchen offers authentic Egyptian and oriental food.
“When Fathi asked me to be part of the team, I agreed without hesitation. It took one week to set a plan and prepare for the initiative before it took off three weeks ago,” Salah said.
“In the beginning, it was not easy at all to find food companies and sponsors to provide us with food supplies.
“Many hospitals were sceptical of the idea, as administrations were wary that the quality of food might be compromised and had doubts with regards to infections and food hygiene,” he said.
Salah explains that they made use of business relations with different food companies to bring sponsors on board, and utilised different social media platforms to support the initiative.
Chef teams cooked and delivered fresh, hot, and nutritious meals (breakfast and dinner) every day to medical staff at Imbaba Hospital.
“We are negotiating to deliver more meals to Sednaoui Hospital in El-Gomhouria Street and El-Abassiya Fever Hospital,” he added.
Chef Salah explained that each meal contains three major elements: protein (fish, meat chicken), carbohydrates (rice, pasta, bread) and vegetables, plus fresh salad as a side dish.
The breakfast meal includes beans, eggs, jam, honey, bread and freshly baked pastries like croissant, Danish, pâté, pie and muffins.
“In Ramadan, we will continue to deliver iftar and suhoor meals,” he says.
A team of professionals
The initiative’s team is comprised of founder Nagwa Fathi, medical laboratory specialist Dr Nehal Mohsen, who supervises the process of cleansing, disinfecting and sterilising the operation, and 10 chefs.
The volunteer chefs are Mohamed Salah, Wesam Masoud, Marwan Hamdi, Mohanad Mustafa, Ashraf El-Mansi, Hisham Rafaat, Maryan Hani, Nelly Ezz, Nour Ghaafar and Fatma Sami.
Finally, Ismail Gawish and Khaled Fadel are responsible for making the deliveries to hospitals.
The entire team is made up of volunteers.
Salah stressed that most of the cooks are professional and certified chefs.
“We use healthy cooking methods to capture the flavour while retaining the nutrients,” he said.
Salah says that the whole team takes measures to guarantee food safety. The entire staff washes their hands constantly, use hand disinfectants and wear gloves. Inside the kitchen, there is a reminder every 30 minutes for the cooking staff to wash their hands and change masks and gloves.
Every chef wears special work garments that must be washed and cleaned every day, and 70 percent ethyl alcohol is sprayed over the chef’s entire body before they enter the kitchen.
Salah added that chefs are responsible for cleaning and sanitising the kitchen.
“All the kitchen surfaces and work counters are regularly and meticulously sanitised, and all tools, cookware and utensils are put in the dishwashing machine on the disinfecting and sterilising washing cycle,” he says.
“We hope that similar initiatives are implemented in all governorates,” he said.