These Organizations Are Feeding Healthcare Workers and First Responders Across the Country
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt lives amid its spread throughout the United States, many are taking matters into their own hands and working to fuel those braving the front lines of the pandemic. Organizations and initiatives...
As the coronavirus outbreak continues to disrupt lives amid its spread throughout the United States, many are taking matters into their own hands and working to fuel those braving the front lines of the pandemic.
Organizations and initiatives including Off Their Plate, Feed the Frontlines NYC, and Pizza vs. Pandemic are donating meals to healthcare professionals and first responders across the country, while food banks and organizations like Feeding America and Citymeals are feeding other communities who are at risk, including older and economically struggling Americans.
Some celebrities are also working to send meals to healthcare specialists. Stand-up comedian Jim Gaffigan, for example, partnered with YouTube and Google.org to support the World Health Organization’s Coronavirus Response and match every dollar with $2 up to a total of $5 million. All transaction fees are covered, so funds will go directly to the fund to help frontline workers get essential supplies and information. You can donate through Gaffigan’s YouTube video here.
Large restaurant chains like Starbucks, Krispy Kreme, and &pizza have also established policies that offer free food and/or drinks to customers who identify themselves as front-line responders to the COVID-19 outbreak, while others like Taco Bell and Sweetgreen are actually delivering food to those in essential roles such as hospital workers, teachers, grocery store employees, ambulance drivers, and more. Some brands, like McDonald’s and Panda Express, are even donating supplies like personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals across the nation.
It’s not only the major chains that are working to feed healthcare workers, though — small businesses across the country are also chiming in to help, especially in New York, where the far majority of U.S. cases are concentrated. NYC restaurants including Brooklyn Chop House, Mimi Chengs, Sauce Pizzeria, 886, LouLou, Fornino Pizza, Radio City Pizza, and many more have been making deliveries to local hospitals and healthcare centers. You can find a list of local restaurants making deliveries to hospital workers in your area on a number of websites.
Keep on reading for a list of chain restaurants and organizations — big and small — that are working to feed healthcare workers and first responders across the country.
Feed the Frontlines NYC
The owners of local restaurant Tarallucci e Vino created this organization in order to feed healthcare professionals and hospital workers across New York City, which is currently the epicenter of the virus in the United States, as well as create opportunities for the restaurant’s employees to prepare and distribute free meals. So far, nearly 15,000 meals have been delivered, and an additional 15,829 will be with the current funds currently available.
They’ve also helped launch at least six sister organizations in Toronto, Boston, Marin, Miami, Boulder, and San Francisco. Plans to bring the initiative to even more cities, like Sacramento, Orange County, Englewood, and Hoboken, are ongoing.
“The goal of this new initiative is to keep members of our wonderful staff employed and pave the way for other NYC restaurants to do the same as we work to feed more of our healthcare professionals. We hope you’ll join us in this effort to keep New York City healthy and well-fed,” the organization says on their website.
To purchase additional meals for healthcare workers, you can donate to Feed the Frontlines NYC here.
Girl Scouts of America
The organization had to cancel all in-person sales and events for the popular Girl Scout Cookies in order to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, so they introduced online ordering through a new campaign called Girl Scouts Cookie Care. Customers can order cookies to be delivered to their homes, or they can donate them to be sent to those on the front lines at no added shipping cost.
“For 108 years, Girl Scouts has been there in times of crisis and turmoil,” said Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo in a press release. “By buying and donating cookies, Girl Scout Cookie fans are helping sustain our life-changing programs for girls — and bringing joy and comfort to those on the frontlines of this crisis.”
You can donate cookies here.
Help Feed the Frontline LA
Several Los Angeles restaurants have partnered with Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen to raise money and provide two healthy meals a day to nearly 450 workers across six local hospitals. As a result, they’ve been able to keep their own businesses operational by giving workers an opportunity to feed those on the frontlines. So far, the organization has raised nearly $300,000 in only one week, and their goal is to reach $3,000,000.
“They’re in the trenches in this thing and anything I can do to help them, I’m going to do. I can’t provide ventilators or masks but I can provide a meal so I jumped at the chance,” said chef Wes Whitsell in a statement to ABC.
You can donate to the organization on their GoFundMe page here.
Krewe of Red Beans
The organization, which typically hosts the New Orleans’ annual Bean Madness tournament, shifted its work this year to serving hospital workers and supporting local restaurants across New Orleans. They order meals from locally-owned restaurants and deliver them to doctors, nurses, techs, clerks, housekeeping, radiology, and other COVID units working hard to save lives. Right now they are feeding up to 12 hospitals in the area and serving about 1,000 meals per day.
“Hospital workers are on the front-lines, protecting us from a new, largely-unknown, and scary global pandemic….as many of you know, my wife works in the ER, and she has been sharing her experience with me. One detail stuck out – which is the stress level of hospital workers is high, and to cope, some have been bringing cookies to share.. . and that small gesture helped….this helps them power through this challenging time,” they said on their GoFundMe page.
Meals for Chicago Area COVID-19 Healthcare Workers with Give InKind
Three Chicago-area working moms started this initiative utilizing the Give InKind online platform in order to coordinate community efforts to provide meals to ER and ICU staff at various Chicago hospitals. Those who are interested in donating meals pick a hospital and a local restaurant of their choice through the site and then “claim” a day/time slot for the food to be delivered. So far, they have organized the donation of more than 30,000 meals to 15 local hospitals in just over a week.
“Let’s support our local amazing Healthcare Workers who are on the front lines keeping us safe,” they wrote online. “At the same time, we can support our local restaurants! We are doing our part by staying home, but this is one small thing we can do as a community to mobilize behind those that must go to work to help our communities!”
To donate meals to Chicago-area hospitals through Give InKind, you can start the process here.
Create a page for hospitals and frontline teams in your own area here.
The organization is working to provide meals from local restaurants to medical professionals working in New York City hospitals as they continue to risk their lives fighting COVID-19. As such, donations feed healthcare workers as well as provide local restaurant workers with an opportunity to stay afloat during the pandemic.
They’ve partnered with local ER and ICU departments to deliver individual meals from local restaurants like Junzi Kitchen to each healthcare working during a shift (typically between 30-50 people). According to their website, $30 feeds two nurses, $60 feeds a nurse and his or her team, $150 feeds ten frontline workers, and $750 provides a healthy meal for an entire emergency shift.
You can donate to Meals4Heroes here.
Off Their Plate
Harvard medical student Natalie Guo founded the grassroots organization in Boston as a way to provide relief to the restaurant and healthcare industries — two of those hit hardest amid the coronavirus pandemic — and restore work and livelihoods to those on the frontline workforce.
She and local chefs Tracy Chang and Ken Oringer set up a fundraising page in mid-March and immediately begin delivering nutritious “Hero Meals” to sanitation crews, nurses, residents, lab technicians, and more at multiple Boston hospitals. They also deliver grocery care packages called “Hero Kits” to healthcare workers who are currently unable to shop themselves.
So far, the initiative has raised more than $210,000 and has already expanded to New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Pittsburgh. They have also partnered with CommonWealth Kitchen and World Central Kitchen and have cooked and delivered more than 1,500 meals across all participating cities. According to the website, for every $100 donated, you can send 10 meals to the COVID-19 frontline and restore three shift hours to the community, while $500 will send 50 meals and restore 13 shift hours.
To support Off Their Plate as well as those working with the organization, you can make a donation here.
Pizza vs. Pandemic
This collaboration between Slice Out Hunger, Pizza to the Polls, and Slice allows people to make tax-deductible donations online, which will be used to order food from local pizzerias via the Slice pizza app to be delivered to local hospitals, clinics, shelters, and/or care centers to their workers can get free hot meals.
As such, donations support small businesses across the country that are impacted and aid workers who are fighting on the frontlines of the pandemic. So far, the initiative has delivered more than 3,000 pizzas with the help of $180,000 raised by 3,400 donors in only ten days. All funds from donations used to purchase pizzas will go directly toward the businesses.
To support Pizza vs. Pandemic or nominate a care center to receive free pizza, you can make a donation or fill out a form here.
The ride-hailing company is giving away more than 300,000 meals to healthcare workers and first responders working to combat the coronavirus in the United States and Canada, in coordination with local, state, and provincial governments
“We know that the work of medical and crisis response teams can be tireless, and the hours long; we hope we can help in a small way,” Janelle Sallenave, head of Uber Eats, said in a statement.
Interested officials and organizations can reach Uber at [email protected].
The east coast pizza chain is giving away free pies to hospital workers who show identification in-stores. Those who are unable to leave their respective posts can text 200-0 #HERO to obtain a unique code to get a pie delivered to their post instead.
“People just don’t have the choice in this situation,” said &pizza’s CEO and co-founder Michael Lastoria in a statement to the New York Times. “If people don’t have the choice, let’s do the right thing.”
Chicken Salad Chick
The southern-inspired concept has launched their “Feeding the Front Lines” initiative in numerous communities across the U.S. Local restaurants have been making weekly deliveries to nurses, doctors, EMT’s, and medical offices, with many catered meals being donated by residents.
“Today is #NationalDoctorsDay. Thank you for your Strength, Courage, and Service…and for always Spreading Joy, Enriching Lives, and Serving Others,” the company wrote on Instagram. “Visit your local Chick’s Facebook page or call your local restaurant for ways to support frontline teams and especially our Doctors, Nurses, and Medical Professionals!”
Buy a Quick Chick or Family Meal Deal at a local restaurant and one will be donated to hospital workers/first responders in return. The majority of the chain’s locations nationwide are participating, but you should check your local store for more details first.
The healthy lifestyle eatery is donating salads to local hospitals in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. For every salad purchased through April 12, Coolgreens will donate a salad to a local hospital.
“We want to do what we can to support the brave men and women that are working on the frontlines in local hospitals during this pandemic,” said Coolgreens VP of Operations Amanda Powell. “They are working long hours with very little time to make a meal, especially a delicious and nutritious one. That’s where we come in. We invite our communities in Oklahoma City and Tulsa to join us in helping fuel our neighbors through these difficult times.”
The convenience store chain, which is operated by EG Group, is giving away free coffee to healthcare professionals and military personnel when they inform a team member of their profession at checkout. Those who qualify can order a cup of hot or iced coffee of any size, and the deal will also be available at EG Group’s eight additional convenience retailers across the US: Certified Oil, Fastrac, Kwik Shop, Loaf ‘n Jug, Minit Mart, Quik Stop, Tom Thumb, and Turkey Hill.
“Across the country, emergency first responders and healthcare workers continue to work long hours and make personal sacrifices for the health and safety of our communities,” said George Fournier, President of EG America, in a press release. “We are beyond grateful for their service, and hope that this small gesture helps fuel these unsung heroes throughout the day as they continue the great work they’re doing to keep our communities safe.”
The barbecue concept is giving away free meals to frontline hospital workers across the country. They started in Phoenix, where they gave away 50,000 coupons for free sandwiches to fire and police staff, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and countless independent doctors’ offices, trucking companies, and pharmacy employees. Dickey’s even provided free sandwiches to the National Guard. They are now rolling out this program across the country.
“Although these are difficult times, we believe it’s important to support our local communities and give back to the front line,” said Laura Rea Dickey CEO of Dickey’s Barbecue Restaurants, Inc. “At Dickey’s, we are proud to serve the countless first responders who are working tirelessly to keep us all safe and healthy.”
The pizza chain will donate 10 million slices of pizza within their local communities, starting this week. They’re partnering with their franchisees so that hospitals and medical centers, as well as school kids and their families, health departments, grocery store workers, and others in need can enjoy a hot pizza in this uncertain time. All 6,126 stores nationwide are expected to be a part of this effort, and some stores have already committed to donating additional pizzas to those in need in their respective communities.
“We have a long history of feeding people during times of crisis and uncertainty. When we were looking at how we could help, we knew we could use the reach of our national brand to make a difference in thousands of local neighborhoods,” said Russell Weiner, Domino’s chief operating officer and president of the Americas, in a press release. “We have franchisees and company-owned stores all over the country already doing amazing work in their communities and we know that by amplifying those efforts together we will be able to help even more people who are struggling right now.”
Habit Burger Grill
The California-based chain is sending its fleet of food trucks to provide more than 8,000 free meals to health care workers this week. In order to do so, they’re stopping near hospitals throughout the area in locations including Santa Ana, Norwalk, LA, West Covina, Long Beach, and Mission Hills. The trucks will ask representatives to come out every 15 minutes to pick up food rather than allowing a line to accumulate outside so the company can follow proper social distancing protocol.
“To start the weekend off with some happy news, we want to highlight our amazing Habit Truck Team. They’ve been on the road the last week giving back to our local communities by feeding our healthcare heroes some delicious and jumping in to volunteer,” the company wrote on Instagram. “Three Habit Trucks provided 600 complimentary meals while families waited in their cars to pick up bags of shelf stable food. Our Truck Team also jumped in to distribute bags of food. We’re in this together! #OperationFeedOC.”
The fast-casual healthy dining concept partnered with Mount Sinai and announced it will deliver 10,000 meals a week to seven of their hospitals and medical facilities in New York City to bring nutritious meals to those on the frontlines. In addition to making a difference in those essential workers’ lives, the initiative allows some Just Salad team members to return to stores in order to work on the project.
“As a NYC-based company, we are honored to serve the healthcare workers taking care of New Yorkers at this extraordinarily challenging time,” said Founder and CEO of Just Salad Nick Kenner in a statement. “I’m also gratified that this program will bring some of our team members back to work while providing nutritious and satisfying food to the heroes providing medical care at these seven hospitals. This is a proud moment for our company.”
Kentucky Fried Chicken
The fried chicken brand announced it will send one million pieces of chicken to KFC restaurants across the country in order to support local communities in need. They are shipping every location in the United States an additional chicken supply specifically earmarked for goodwill. KFC franchisees and their more than 80,000 team members have already begun donating thousands of meals to frontline healthcare facilities and alternative communities in need, depending on whatever their hometown needs the most.
“Seeing our franchisees coming together and helping their neighbors during this crisis has inspired us to do more,” said Kevin Hochman, President of KFC U.S., in a press release. “Many KFC restaurants across the U.S. are small, family-owned businesses, and while they are facing uncertainty, they continue to keep their restaurants open every day to feed our customers. During this unprecedented time, our franchisees are also helping make sure those in need are able to enjoy the comfort and familiarity of a hot meal.”
The donut chain is offering free dozens of original glazed donuts to all healthcare workers each Monday through May 11. In order to redeem the offer and receive up to 5 dozen donuts, those who qualify can go to any Krispy Kreme drive-thru and show their employer badge, including anyone who works at a hospital, as well as physicians, nurses, surgeons, psychologists, dentists, optometrists, pharmacists and their staff.
“Hey healthcare pros! You all are incredible. As a sweet #THANKYOU for all you’re doing, we’ve got FREE dozens for you on #Mondays from #NationalDoctorsDay 3/30 through #NationalNursesWeek 5/11,” the company announced on Instagram.
“Like everyone in these times, we’re anxious. We’re concerned. We’re also all in this together,” they added in a press release. “Thank you, healthcare workers and everyone supporting them, including our Krispy Kremers, who make a personal commitment every day to share joy. We are grateful for the opportunity to enable the sharing of joy and look forward to seeing millions of smiles!
The grilled cheese chain announced that they are offering free melts for medical professionals on the frontlines in New York City, Long Island, and Staten Island. They just need to show their hospital ID in order to qualify. In addition, you can nominate any hospital or medical facility to receive free food from Melt Shop by emailing [email protected]
“Our team is doing everything we can to help those impacted by the recent COVID-19 outbreak,” the company wrote on Instagram. “We feel we have a responsibility to our team and community to continue to provide people with fair wages and access to hot, comforting food during this most challenging of times.”
The nutritious neighborhood eatery is delivering meals to local Dallas-Fort Worth and Phoenix hospitals every week. Guests now have the ability to donate a meal to a healthcare worker when they check out in-stores or online. Additionally, healthcare workers who show their ID at the register can get 50% off their meal.
“Original ChopShop is committed to inspiring our communities to ‘just feel good,’ and right now, to us, that means supporting healthcare workers on the front lines,” said CEO Jason Morgan. “We believe providing healthcare workers with a feel-good meal is a way to do our part in helping those who need it most during this challenging time.”
The bakery café chain is now offering free coffee to all hospital workers and first responders in New York City. In order to redeem the deal, those who qualify can come in uniform or show a valid form of ID at any of Paris Baguette’s Manhattan locations.
“We have a responsibility to serve our communities and those that are working selflessly at the frontline of the pandemic by remaining open for delivery, pick-up and grab-and-go options,” said Darren Tipton, Chief Executive Officer of Paris Baguette, in a statement to PEOPLE. “We will continue to safely serve our fresh foods and a wide variety of signature cakes and pastries, sandwiches and salads, seasonal beverages, and more, for the people in our communities who need it.”
The cold-pressed juice chain committed to providing “no less than 15,000 juices and shots” to those on the front lines including healthcare professionals at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles & Orange County, Los Angeles Food Bank, and Fresno Unified School District. They’re also allowing people to nominate additional organizations to receive drinks by emailing [email protected]
“We’re so grateful for our hospital workers, healthcare providers and those leading meal distribution within our community,” the company wrote on Instagram. “We recognize this is a time that businesses need to support organizations on the front lines and those impacted by this crisis,” Pressed Juicery CEO Pawan Kalra added in a statement.
The Texas-based concept is matching every hot chicken & cheese sandwich purchased and sending them to local hospital workers. In just one week, The Rustic has already donated more than 1,000 sandwiches and plans to continue doing so.
“Hospital workers are exhausted from pulling long shifts and rarely have time to prepare a good meal, which is why it’s especially important to support them however we can right now,” said Kyle Noonan, co-owner of FreeRange Concepts, which operates The Rustic. “The amount of people that have pitched in and rallied together to help is truly inspiring. One extremely generous individual bought $5,000 worth of sandwiches! It goes to show that we are all in this together and we will continue to do what we can to help our neighbors through these trying times.”
Through April 28, the fast-casual hamburger chain is taking monetary donations for every takeout order placed by phone, in-store, online, or on the app. They are matching each dollar contributed, and all proceeds will go towards food drop-offs for first responders and healthcare workers.
“We would like to express our gratitude to the first responders and the frontliners of this crisis in all they are doing to safeguard the well-being of our communities. We’re inviting Smashburger fans to join us in support of these crisis response teams,” the company said in a statement to PEOPLE.
The coffee giant announced that it will offer free coffee to customers who identify themselves as “front-line responders to the COVID-19 outbreak” through May 3, 2020. In addition, the Starbucks Foundation will donate $500,000 to support healthcare workers, and the money will be split evenly between Operation Gratitude and Direct Relief.
“Starbucks continues to act based on three simple principles: ensuring the health and well-being of our partners and customers, supporting local health officials and government leaders as they work to contain and mitigate this virus, and showing up as a responsible member of the 32,000 communities in which we are the Third Place,” Starbucks CEO and President Kevin Johnson wrote in a statement. “It is the responsibility of every business to care for its employees during this time of uncertainty, shared sacrifice, and common cause.”
The salad chain is offering free Sweetgreen for hospital workers and medical personnel during this critical time. They’ve dedicated their Outpost operations and teams to support those on the front lines by delivering free, fresh salads and bowls to hospitals in the cities they serve. Additionally, Sweetgreen partnered with chef José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen to launch the Sweetgreen Impact Outpost Fund, which will feed medical personnel working in hospitals. Through the fund, direct donations will be used to expand the program’s reach and fund new Outposts in relief sites, as well as in high-risk communities.
“We’re so grateful for the hospital workers + medical personnel who are putting others before themselves during this critical time,” wrote the company in a statement. “We’re already at work implementing Outposts for a few hospitals, and will continue to set them up as requests come in. We’d love your help in spreading the word (see here) – share with your friends, family, neighbors or anyone who you think might be able to help us, help more people.”
You can help connect hospitals to real food by donating to the Sweetgreen Impact Outpost fund here.
The Mexican food brand announced its plan to feed “heroes” around the country by transforming their U.S. Taco Bell Taco Trucks into mobile commissaries that will deliver food to those in essential roles including healthcare workers, ambulance drivers, teachers, grocery store employees, and more.
“There’s a distinct group of brave people – from healthcare workers, to teachers, to grocery store employees – who are making sure the world keeps running, and we need to make sure we all do our part to take care of them. Around the world, our franchisees have committed to feeding these special individuals, and in the U.S., many of our franchisees have quickly mobilized to do the same,” Taco Bell CEO Mark King said in a statement. “We are working with our franchisees on a solution for this where possible, and we want to make sure this group knows how much we appreciate everything they’re doing.”
Tropical Smoothie Café
The fast-casual smoothie chain committed to donating 100,000 smoothies nationwide to healthcare workers and first responders as part of their #InItTogether campaign. To reach that goal, each café has been challenged to donate at least 100 smoothies to those on the frontlines. Many franchisees have already donated that amount six times over, resulting in the donation of approximately 32,000 smoothies across the U.S. so far.
“In cafes across the country, the Tropical Smoothie Cafe family is working tirelessly to support our local communities, which are currently facing unprecedented hardship,” said Charles Watson, CEO of Tropical Smoothie Cafe, in a press release. “Our safety is dependent upon the selfless, hard work of our local healthcare workers and first responders and we want to help them in any way we can. The 100K smoothie giveaway is a simple, but impactful example of one way we can show our gratitude and bring a smile to their face – one sip at a time.”
The restaurant company has partnered with PruittHealth in Atlanta, Georgia to provide meals for those working overtime. They repurposed their food truck that was built for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts to feed frontline hospital workers, which gives Waffle House employees an opportunity to work by supporting those working amidst the pandemic.
Call your local Waffle House today if you want to reward your team, your business or your neighborhood with a Waffle House catering job.
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Organizations Feeding the Community at Large
Citymeals on Wheels
New York City’s designated emergency responder for seniors is working overtime to ensure that older New Yorkers — who can’t leave their homes and are unable to cook for themselves — have nourishing food during the coronavirus public health crisis. According to a press release, the organization is now serving an additional 22,000 older people who usually get their meals from local senior centers. As of Tuesday, March 23, Citymeals has delivered 150,000 emergency meals across the five boroughs, however they are currently preparing 300,000 emergency meals to meet growing demand.
“To address this unprecedented challenge, Citymeals has doubled its warehouse staff and is relying on hundreds of volunteers to pack boxes and bags for delivery across the city,” they said. “We continue to take every precaution with staff and volunteers to ensure best hygiene practices, as established by Centers for Disease Control, are followed including social distancing. Our Friendly Visiting program, which connects volunteers with their isolated older neighbors, moved to telephone contact many weeks ago to reduce the chance of possible transmission of the virus.”
If you’re looking to support Citymeals’ emergency response, you can donate online. 100% of all public contributions will go toward the preparation and delivery of meals.
The hunger-relief organization is the nation’s largest of its kind with a network of 200 member food banks across the country. In order to support those suffering amid coronavirus concerns, Feeding America established the COVID-19 Response Fund to help food banks and communities impacted by the pandemic throughout the U.S. The $2.65 million fund will grant food banks the ability to best serve the most vulnerable members of the community.
To support the organization and help them continue to do good work, Feeding America launched national fundraising efforts in addition to building an inventory of emergency food boxes and distributing them to member banks in the U.S., according to a press release. Feeding America is also working with government leaders to “ensure the emergency response includes strong supports in food, funds, and flexibility for federal nutrition programs.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.