Video report by ITV News Reporter Martha Fairlie
A Nepalese restaurant has delivered its 100,000th free meal to members of the community since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sujan Katuwal, owner of Panas Gurkha in Lewisham, south London, started giving away meals to NHS workers, homeless shelters and community centres after being forced to shut the restaurant’s doors during the first Covid lockdown last March.
On Thursday he was joined by actor Joanna Lumley, a long-time campaigner for the UK’s Nepalese community, as he delivered meals to the Royal Artillery Barracks in Greenwich which took him past the 100,000 mark.
Ms Lumley said: “To look out and help people who are terribly busy and simply won’t have time to prepare food is such a generous and open-hearted thing to do.
“They’ve looked after care workers, the homeless community and to crack through the 100,000-meal barrier is simply sensational.
“It should inspire us all and it’s so heart-warming to hear of something so special happening so close to home in South London.”
The restaurant has spent tens of thousands of pounds on the Panas Helping Hands project and earlier this year set up a crowdfunding page to help keep campaign going.
Mr Katuwal said it was “really special” to have had support from Ms Lumley throughout.
“Although it’s been hard for restaurants too it’s always so important to remember those who are less fortunate than you and I know Joanna shares this sense of community spirit too,” he said.
“Her help has been invaluable and to have her with us handing out food to the people who really need it right now is really special.”
Mr Katuwal and his wife Bandana have already received recognition for their work – they were given the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service last year.
As well as Ms Lumley they have had support from actor Sally Lindsay and former Style Council drummer Steve White.
Greenwich Council leader Dan Thorpe said: “On behalf of everyone in Royal Greenwich I’d like to thank Panas Gurkha for the extraordinary work they have done in this pandemic.
“Covid-19 has brought out the very best in people and the contribution they have made to our communities in South East London has been absolutely incredible.”
Mr Katuwal said he now intends to continue his work in the community “forever”.
“It’s been a real eye-opening experience but also very rewarding seeing the local people so grateful,” he said.
“We’re just happy to do our bit during such a tough time.”
For more information about Panas Helping Hands click here.