Massachusetts residents have been doing their part to assist government and health care workers’ efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 by staying home. But finding additional creative ways to express gratitude and support for hospital personnel remotely can be a challenge.
Feed the Fight Boston, founded by Newton residents and business owners, is leading an initiative to show appreciation to doctors, nurses, and custodians working to save the lives of those affected by the coronavirus.
Feed the Fight Boston is a community-based effort that crowdsources individual donations to support struggling local restaurants by funding food delivery to health care workers on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its website.
Through direct and in-kind donations, the organization said it has raised enough to feed more than 5,000 health care workers in 19 area hospitals, including Boston Medical Center, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts General Hospital.
“There was this pent-up desire to let the health care workers know how much we appreciated them and the hard work they are doing on our behalf and to give them some support,” said cofounder and Newton business owner Karen Masterson. “There were resources in the community that could provide revenue to restaurants to make those meals that could then be donated to health care workers; it just seemed like the perfect triangulation.”
Masterson cofounded the organization with Newton residents Leslie Schick, Kim Slater, and Angela Spence after meeting in a neighborhood Facebook group and all expressing an interest to give back to health care workers, according to a statement.
The organization’s first delivery was to Newton-Wellesley Hospital on March 27.
In its first week of operation, Feed the Fight Boston raised $10,000 from community members and fed more than 1,300 health care workers working directly with COVID-19 patients, according to the statement.
“The attention, rightly so, has been on the front line, but we feel proud that we are supporting so many struggling small businesses as well,” said Slater.
The first restaurant to participate and send healthy meals was Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton Centre, which Masterson owns. Now, 21 restaurants have become affiliated with Feed the Fight Boston, and more are being added daily.
Family-owned Ellana’s Kitchen & More in Newton Centre was the second restaurant to deliver food, sending more than 100 meals to Boston Medical Center on March 30.
“We love to be able to help all of these amazing people who are working in the hospitals,” said Miguel Contessi, owner of Ellana’s Kitchen & More. “It’s a good way to help them and help us at the same time.”
Contessi and his wife, Isabel, are the only two employees in the restaurant preparing all takeout orders as they cannot afford to pay other personnel during this challenging time, he said. They are grateful for the opportunity to work with Feed the Fight Boston.
“It felt great to be able to provide healthy, nourishing food to those who need it most right now,” said Brian Axelrod, owner of the Farmacy Cafe in Newton Centre, another participating restaurant. “It’s incredible to see the generosity that is pouring out of people in this trying time.”
Receiving hospitals have been appreciative of the organization’s efforts, sending pictures, videos, letters, and sharing posts on social media to thank community members.
“What struck me most in speaking to the restaurateurs was how happy they were to be able to do something in their own special way to help these front-line health care workers,” said Leah Schafer from the Boston Medical Center Emergency Department after receiving the delivery.
Ellana’s Kitchen & More added freshly baked cookies to the delivery as a special treat and a personalized thank you from the owners to the health care workers at Boston Medical Center. The cookies were a big hit in the Emergency Department, according to Schafer.
Feed the Fight Boston’s endeavors are a team effort. The organizers, restaurant owners, and donors all play a vital part in achieving the organization’s mission.
“To see a whole community come together as yours has is remarkable, and shows us that we are indeed stronger together,” said Dr. Michael VanRooyen, chairman of Emergency Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a letter to Feed the Fight Boston following a food delivery.
As of April 20, Newton restaurants affiliated with Feed the Fight Boston include Baza Supermarket, Cabot’s Ice Cream, Ellana’s Kitchen & More, Farm Grill, Farmacy Cafe, Johnny’s Luncheonette, Judith’s Kitchen, Moldova, and Sandwich Works, according to the organization’s website.
Participating restaurants are primarily located in Newton, but also include establishments from Arlington, Billerica, Boston, Cambridge, Grafton, Medford, Needham, Taunton, and Waltham, according to the website.
Feed the Fight Boston has partnered with ezCater, the company physically delivering the meals, to satisfy individual hospital delivery requirements.
Feed the Fight Boston is a Rotary Club of Newton partner, functioning as a nonprofit organization. It also has partnered with the Russian Jewish Community Foundation and the Goldfish Swim School in Needham, according to its website.
The organization plans to continue to expand to include more field and community hospitals as more COVID-19 cases are reported, according to Feed the Fight Boston.
For more information, go to feedthefightbos.com.
Gwyneth Burns can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.