A businesswoman who won a national award last month, for helping her community during the Covid-19 pandemic, has increased her charity’s free meal deliveries by nearly a third following a recent surge in demand.

Cynthia Stroud is a TV baker who appeared in the BBC 2 series The Sweet Makers and is a TV food judge on the Food Network and won the Pivot for Purpose (Community) Award at the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards, for community action.

Her charity is now delivering around 75,000 meals every fortnight and is looking for a new home, to help cope with soaring demand, to help more families, a situation intensified by the controversy surrounding the Government’s free food parcels for schoolchildren.

After the Covid-19 pandemic hit last March, it quickly became clear that despite it being an area perceived to be affluent, there was more hunger than met the eye in the neighbourhood. This prompted her to launch the charity Jedidiah UK (meaning Beloved of the Lord in Hebrew), and it has rapidly been expanded to help those most in need at a rate of 300 new families a week.

The parcels are co-ordinated by a team of volunteers based in Hertfordshire and distributed solely through schools or through day care centres to preserve the recipient family’s privacy and dignity. They are currently being delivered to 69 schools across Hertfordshire, Essex, Bedfordshire and Merseyside.

Initially packing parcels on her front lawn with the help of neighbours, to provide food parcels to 100 families in the local area, by Christmas the charity was delivering around 50,000 meals each fortnight to over 2500 families.

That has now increased to 75,000 meals a fortnight and the charity is working with around 70 schools, delivering food parcels which each contain 25-40 meals.

Cynthia runs the multi-award winning Pretty Gorgeous Cake Co. and recently launched Pretty Gorgeous Jams, which provided some of the early funding for the charity.

She said: “Just before Christmas, one school in Harlow joined our scheme with 50 families, who each get one parcel a fortnight, but this week the request increased to 150 families. Another in Hertford increased its numbers from 20 to 100 within a week. Within three days of the Prime Minister’s announcement of the latest lockdown, we received requests to help 324 new families.

“We are currently delivering parcels to each of the 2800+ families each fortnight, so they are receiving vital food, and the small piece of mind that they have not been forgotten. And despite the schools being ‘closed’ to all but key worker and vulnerable children, they are still taking receipt of the food parcels and distributing to families, which is fantastic.

“We are also providing fresh food now, picking up surplus stock from supermarkets and providing to schools for breakfast clubs and after school clubs to feed those children whose families can’t afford to pay.

“If we give this away for free to over 2,800 families every fortnight,  why can’t the organisations who charge the government to provide for families do better? So sad.”

Towns where families are receiving food parcels include Hertford, Ware, Hoddesdon, Hatfield, Stevenage, Welwyn, Luton and Harlow, Cheshunt, Bayford, Waltham Cross and Tewin as well as Croxteth and Huyton in Merseyside.

Requests are also coming in from further afield and plans are being put in place to assist an additional 1,500 families in Greater London.

Cynthia who received the British Empire Medal for services to business and the community in Hertford in the 2017 New Year’s Honours list, added; “Our wonderful volunteers are currently working out of a hall in Bengeo but we can’t get vehicles inside, so three hours are lost each week carrying things into the premises from outside. The need to find new premises is becoming increasingly urgent but securing a 3,000sq ft warehouse or industrial unit is proving rather challenging.

“Jedidiah UK was set up with the core mission of ensuring that no one goes hungry. We started working with the YMCA and planned to provide weekly cookery classes and meal planning sessions to help families cook quick, nutritious and delicious meals, also helping with confidence, motivation and health.

“When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, I wanted to help and provided 100 food parcels to local families, which we thought would be a one off, but the seriousness of the situation soon became clear and I felt I had to continue and I’ve been blessed with a network of fantastic team members who share this commitment to continue to help people.

The charity is a registered partner of FareShare, the UK’s largest charity fighting hunger and food waste.