Queen's Birthday Honours: Allinson’s flour mill employee in Bishop's Stortford who put her colleagues and feeding the nation ahead of retirement is awarded MBE as 'Covid hero'
A woman who delayed her retirement from the Allinson's flour mill in Bishop's Stortford to help feed the nation in coronavirus lockdown has been recognised as a ‘Covid hero’.
Sue Freestone, who lives in Elsenham, was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to the food supply chain.
Sue – known as "the face of Allinson’s” – was due to retire in May last year after 31 years' service, but she selflessly decided to remain working at the Dane Street mill to support her colleagues in the early stages of the pandemic as they responded to exceptional increases in demand.
As office manager, she was responsible for co-ordinating all aspects of Covid-19 screening procedures for all personnel entering the site and for implementing strict social distancing controls.
Allinson’s is the UK's largest supplier of packed flour to the retail market. With interest in home baking rocketing in the first months of lockdown, demand for flour in supermarkets effectively doubled overnight as pandemic measures were introduced and panic buying set in.
The Stortford mill had to make significant changes to rapidly increase its output. At the peak of the pandemic, volumes at the mill were 22% higher than normal – equating to over an extra day’s output per week.
In late March 2020, BBC News featured the mill as an example of the unsung heroes in the food supply chain. In its piece, Sue's passion for Allinson’s and the Stortford site shone through as she described her colleagues as her ‘work family’.
Her time at the company spanned more than three decades. Her role captured a variety of tasks including HR and finance support, becoming a key 'go to' member of the operational site team. She finally retired in March this year.
Martin Brewis, managing director of Allinson's parent company, Silver Spoon, said: "Lockdown has applied tremendous pressure to the food supply chain in the UK. The supply chain has stepped up and delivered, keeping the nation fed when it was most needed. Of course, this is not down to one person, but rather to many people like Sue Freestone – people who stepped up.
"Sue has set an example for us all. She put her colleagues and feeding the nation ahead of her personal plans. We couldn’t be prouder of her and all she has achieved. To be recognised as a Covid hero is the perfect way to end her fantastic career."
Matt Lupton, general manager of the Allinson's mill in Stortford, added: "Sue was always at the heart of our Stortford family, and it makes us all incredibly proud for her to be recognised on the Queen’s Birthday Honours list. She has always been a hero for us."