How the wonderful Eat Well MCR delivered 100,000 meals to Manchester’s needy

Eat Well MCR, born from a chef's compassionate choice during the pandemic, celebrates delivering 100,000 meals, embodying Manchester's resilience and community spirit.

We know Mancunians have a big heart and like to give where they can.

And in tough times, you want one of us on your side.

In the face of restaurant lockdowns and the chaos brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a wonderful community initiative emerged from the rubble of everyday life.

Eat Well MCR, a non-profit organisation born out of sheer compassion.

This week they joyfully shared the news that they’ve reached an incredible milestone – delivering a whopping 100,000 meals to individuals in crisis across Greater Manchester.

Origin and Growth of Eat Well MCR

Founded in March 2020 by chef Mary-Ellen McTague, Eat Well MCR originated from a simple yet profound decision.

Faced with unused restaurant produce due to COVID-19 measures, Mary-Ellen chose not to let it go to waste.

Instead, she transformed the ingredients into delicious meals and directed them towards overworked healthcare workers on COVID wards, setting the wheels in motion for a community-driven initiative.

Word quickly spread throughout Manchester’s close-knit hospitality community, prompting chefs, restaurants, and volunteers to join forces.

The initial efforts managed through a WhatsApp group called Emergency Food Response, evolved into the formal establishment of Eat Well MCR.

Community Spirit and Beyond

From its humble beginnings, Eat Well MCR has seen numerous adaptations as founders Mary-Ellen McTague, Gemma Saunders, and Kathleen O’Connor navigated a rapidly changing landscape, running the non-profit alongside their other responsibilities.

The initiative, currently delivering hundreds of meals weekly, reaches various vulnerable groups, including homeless children, women in refuges, families relying on food banks, and parents staying with sick children at Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Kathleen emphasises the collective effort, stating, “It’s been a collective effort from the start. We found ourselves in a unique position to harness the goodwill of the community to support those facing difficult times.”

Kathleen, Mary-Ellen and Gemma explain the ethos behind Eat Well MCR: “It’s about providing a moment of respite to people who for one reason or another are facing extremely harsh realities.

“We hope our meals give recipients that feeling you get when someone prepares something delicious just for you.”

Quality over Quantity

While celebrating the milestone of 100,000 meals, the founders stress their focus on quality over quantity.

Kathleen, Mary-Ellen, and Gemma express their commitment to funding initiatives that extend beyond meal provision, showing the ethos of providing a moment of respite to those facing harsh realities.

Community Initiatives

Eat Well MCR’s impact extends beyond meal deliveries, encompassing community-based food events too.

Other initiatives delivered by Eat Well MCR include community based food events such as pop-up food traders giving out free meals to families in the school holidays, or a recent community dinner hosted in partnership with the National Trust on Castlefield Viaduct.

The dinner, funded by the National Trust, was cooked by Where the Light Gets In chef Sam Buckley, for a group of young people aged 12 to 14 from Rekindle – a supplementary school based in Hulme.

Chef Mary-Ellen McTague’s Reflections

Chef Mary-Ellen McTague, the driving force behind Eat Well MCR, humbly attributes the initiative’s success to the goodwill and selflessness defining Manchester’s hospitality essence.

She sees Eat Well MCR as a reflection of the community’s desire to create meaningful and positive experiences for those facing crises, considering it a privilege to do so.

She said: “What makes this initiative truly special is the extension of this generosity beyond the restaurant doors.

“It is heartwarming to witness the hospitality community channelling their innate desire to look after others to a cause that goes beyond commercial interests.

“In an industry where financial margins are tight and endeavours can sometimes feel cynical, this outreach is a stark contrast—a genuine effort to make a positive impact on the community.”

Eat Well MCR is a collective of Manchester-based chefs and restaurants providing meals to people facing challenging circumstances.

Founded in April 2020 by chef Mary-Ellen McTague, the initiative has now delivered over 100,000 meals across Greater Manchester, partnering with grassroots organisations to support families, individuals in shelters, parents of hospitalised children, and those affected by food poverty.

Eat Well MCR is led by chef Mary-Ellen McTague, creative producer Gemma Saunders, and marketing consultant Kathleen O’Connor.

The board also includes Cloudwater founder Paul Jones, Honest Crust founder Rich Carver, Tampopo founder David Fox, and cultural powerhouse Christine Cort.

I think you’ll all join us in wishing Eat Well MCR many congratulations. They are an incredible asset to the city and we can be very proud of their amazing efforts.


Manchester is a successful city, but there are many people that suffer. The I Love MCR Foundation helps raise vital funds to help improve the lives and prospects of people and communities across Greater Manchester – and we can’t do it without your help. So please donate or fundraise what you can because investing in your local community to help it thrive can be a massively rewarding experience. Thank you in advance!

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