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April 8, 2020

Food for the Front Lines: Win-win for health providers and restaurants

PHOTO | Contributed  A recent food delivery went to hospital staff at Yale New Haven Hospital’s St. Raphael campus in New Haven.

A new initiative, Food for the Front Lines, has a dual purpose.

It brings nutritious meals to medical staff caring for the state’s coronavirus patients. And it also helps bring business to restaurants throughout the region, many of which are struggling because they can’t host any dine-in guests.

Matthew Peterson, president of Homewatch CareGivers of New Haven, is one of the organizers working to make the effort a success. 

Through the program, which started about a week and a half ago in the New Haven region, individuals donate money through a GoFundMe campaign. Then, the money raised is used to buy meals from area restaurants, which is then brought to area hospitals and medical centers to feed staff.

“We are raising money and buying food from the restaurants, which are struggling too,” Peterson said. “This is doing two things — it is saying ‘thank you’ to the people caring for the patients, and it is also helping the restaurants stay afloat.”

Staff at the intensive care unit at Yale New Haven Hospital and at the Advanced Center for Nursing & Rehabilitation in New Haven are among the recent recipients. 

“The long term hope is to keep businesses in business,” Peterson said. “It’s a way for the business community to help each other out. Longer term, I hope it will morph into something else — that we are truly all in this together and will mean more civic participation for all businesses.”

Peterson learned about the effort through his friend, Nicole Straight, who founded Food for the Front Lines. Straight, who has worked as Food Rescue US’ Fairfield County site director, saw a chance to help restaurants while also feeding health-care workers. In the span of a week, she raised several thousand dollars and delivered more than 750 meals.

As the virus has spread more beyond hardest hit Fairfield County, so has the effort. The New Haven and Hartford regions are seeing more coronavirus cases, and the program has expanded to correspond with the need.

The Connecticut Restaurant Association is also assisting in the effort, according to Peterson. The money raised is not only going toward meals for hospital personnel. Food is also going to nursing homes, senior homes and other people in need of food.

According to Peterson, many restaurateurs have made food donations themselves. However, the goal is to buy food from them to help the restaurants make money and survive. 

“Restaurants themselves will need help in the long run,” Peterson said.

At a press conference this week, leaders in the Yale New Haven Health system expressed their appreciation for how people have been donating meals.

Several restaurants throughout the region have participated in making meals for health-care workers. The Food for the Front Lines’ Facebook page has numerous photos documenting the efforts of establishments, such as Dockside Brewery in Milford, Geronimo Tequila Bar and Southwest Grill in New Haven, Canton’s Green Papaya Thai Restaurant and Rein’s Deli in Vernon.

Getting creative to survive

Brendan Bloom and his wife Christina Holmes are co-owners of La Cuisine in Branford, and they are launching a One-for-One Prepared Meals program this week. For every meal purchased for delivery or pickup, they are donating a meal to hospital workers or others in need, such as first responders, homebound seniors, community dining rooms and out-of-work service employees.

According to Bloom, the couple is currently launching the One-for-One program on its own, though he indicated he would also look into the Food for the Front Lines effort. 

“We have seen an enormous drop in business — it has been brutal,” Bloom said. “A lot of events have been rescheduled. The biggest uncertainty is when people will feel it is safe to go back to restaurants.”

“We can still make food in a safe and clean manner, and our customers have been amazing and supportive,” Bloom said. “We want to give people a sense that they are helping the community, too.”

To donate to the Food for the Front Lines effort, visit the GoFundMe page HERE. There is also a Facebook page HERE

For more information, contact Peterson at 203-646-8855.

Contact Michelle Tuccitto Sullo at


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