LONDON (Reuters) - Strawberries that would have been chomped on by tennis fans during the Wimbledon fortnight are being sent to London's NHS and frontline staff as a mark of thanks for their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ordinarily the championships would have been in full flow this week, but the grasscourts remain vacant and the strawberry and cream stalls empty.
Instead, with Wimbledon cancelled for the first time since World War II, the All England Club is donating 200 punnets of strawberries per day ahead of the 72nd anniversary of the National Health Service.
More than 26,000 strawberries that would have been sold during the fortnight are being hulled (de-stemmed) and portioned by a group of staff at the south west London venue.
"Since the cancellation of the championships, we have been very focused on doing what we can to help those in our local community who are undergoing hardship as a result of the coronavirus crisis," AELTC chief executive Richard Lewis said.
"Our staff have been particularly keen to do what they can to help during this time and we were pleased that so many of them volunteered to take part in the strawberry hulling operation during the Wimbledon fortnight."
The first delivery was dispatched to St George's Hospital Charity on Monday.
"It was a lovely surprise gesture and a great token of appreciation for our amazing NHS staff who have been working tirelessly during this crisis," CEO Amerjit Chohan said.
Wimbledon has also been active in helping the local community during the pandemic, providing 200 hot meals per day to those in need in local boroughs.
Those meals will now feature some fresh strawberries too.
Roughly 27,000 kilos of strawberries and 7,000 litres of cream are usually eaten during the Wimbledon championships.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)