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Food For The Front Lines 

Supporting Chefs and Healthcare Workers During COVID-19

Article by Nicole Straight 

Photography by Photos provided by Nicole Straight 

Originally published in Westport Lifestyle

Three and a half weeks ago my daughter, Emma, returned home from her freshman year at Santa Clara University. She, like all freshman, was just getting into the swing of college life when the University closed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

After the initial shock at being back with her family, she returned to what she has always considered her second home: Westport EMS. As my daughter worked her first shift, I found myself sitting at home worrying about her as well as the state of, well, everything.

I called Chef Bill Taibe (Owner of The Whelk, Kawa Ni and Jesup Hall) and asked if I could purchase 40 individually packaged meals to bring the EMS team and to my friend, a local ER nurse. I knew the restaurants would take an immediate hit financially and I thought it would be nice to support both the chefs and the healthcare workers.

Before going to sleep that night I posted to a couple of Facebook pages what I had done, and asked if anyone wanted to help support our local restaurants while supporting the EMS and hospitals. The response was overwhelming. I raised over $2,000 overnight and an additional $2,000 the next day.

I picked up and delivered meals to the hospitals and EMS for the first couple of days until I realized how big this was quickly becoming. I quickly moved to ordering the food and having the restaurants deliver the meals directly to our specific drop location and time so the hospitals knew to expect us.

My friend Stephanie Webster, Editor for CTbites, reached out a day or two later and told me she loved what I was doing and wanted to help. A few days after that another friend of mine, Ria Rueda, said she wanted to help, too. Then Alison Sherman joined our tiny but powerful team of kick-ass women working at all hours of the day to make this happen.

And just like that, Food For The Front Lines was created.

Alison and Steph worked on marketing and social media to spread the word. By the end of the first week I had contacts for every ER, ICU and EMS between Danbury and Greenwich. Ria kept busy connecting to restaurants to buy as many meals as we could buy with our donations.

By the second week we had people calling to see how to emulate Food For The Front Lines in Litchfield, Hartford and New Haven Counties and Westchester, NY. I shared my protocol for reaching out to the healthcare teams and Stephanie quickly created hand-out materials and logos for Greater CT.

The response from local restaurants to participate has been overwhelming. Westport restaurants, including Match Burger Lobster, Romanacci’s, The Whelk, Mystic Market, OKO, and terrain have jumped at the chance to deliver food to our healthcare workers, and each restaurant has gone above and beyond what we asked.

As we enter the beginning of our fourth week running Food For The Front Lines we have purchased and delivered over 5,500 meals and raised over $85,000!

I continue to hear from nurses on a daily basis who tell me they were scared, then they went to the break room and were overjoyed to see a meal that had been prepared with love waiting for them. The meals not only nourish their bodies but reminds them that we care about them.

The notes of gratitude and support that the restaurants attach to their meal deliveries are incredible. I know that Food For The Front Lines may not save a restaurant during this time, but when I get a text from a restaurant owner thanking me for allowing them to keep an employee paid for an extra day or two, it feels good.

We’ve lived in Westport for over over 20 years and we are moving back to California this summer. I am in awe of the generosity of this community. We will continue to buy meals to support our local restaurants and front line staff for as long as we have funding.

Donate to Food For The Front Lines Go Fund Me here: gf.me/u/xrafi4

Facebook.com/FoodForTheFrontLine

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