It may seem absurd for restaurants to give away food during a time when many are predicting their financial ruin. Nevertheless, some are feeding health care workers for free.
When Sherry McCarthy of PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Foundation asked Blind Onion’s owner Gene Schwendiman for pizzas to feed hospital staff, he was happy to help.
“The foundation was willing to pay for the pizza and I told her that we would provide 90 large pizzas at no cost if they would just provide a tip for my Mill Plain staff,” Schwendiman said. “Done deal!”
Blind Onion sent 50 for lunch and 40 for the night shift.
Steve Valenta, owner of The Mighty Bowl, also donated meals to PeaceHealth’s Vancouver hospital workers.
“We wanted to support those that were supporting others,” he said. “They’re modern-day heroes, as we’re all finding. We just wanted to show our appreciation for their dedication to our community and loved ones.”
Joey Chmiko of Nonavo Pizza is giving free meals to kids, health care workers and unemployed food industry workers. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, he wanted to make sure that people who needed a meal were getting fed, no questions asked.
“We’ve always been a charitable house,” Chmiko said. “If I got it and you ask for it, you got it.”
Feed the Fearless recently contacted Elements Restaurant and bought 50 meals for health care workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
Michael MacKelvie, a managing partner and financial planner at Three Rivers Wealth Strategies in Lake Oswego, Ore., founded Feed the Fearless just a few weeks ago.
MacKelvie was driving home from work one night and passed one of his favorite restaurants, Thai Basil. It was empty. MacKelvie, who worked as a waiter in college, understands the tight margins in the food industry and wanted to help.
He thought it would be cool to buy a huge number of meals. Where would they go? His colleague and friend, Kasey Closs, helped him with a plan. Closs’ wife, Emily, is a nurse. Why not buy meals from struggling locally owned food businesses and feed health care workers?
MacKelvie called hospitals and found some takers. PeaceHealth Southwest was one of the early recipients. He asked nurses and foundation members where to get food and they suggested Elements Restaurant.
MacKelvie had hoped to partner with a nonprofit so donors could get a tax write-off. Unable to find an organization willing to partner with Feed the Fearless, he set up a GoFundMe page and has raised about $19,000. He’s currently working with GoFundMe to get money released more quickly so he can get as many meals out at a time as possible. Every dollar donated goes directly to a small business to make meals for health care workers.
“Gratitude is more contagious than the disease itself,” MacKelvie said. “It’s nice to spread that around.”
Mike and Alice Terry, publishers of Camas Life Magazine, created a similar GoFundMe project called Feed the Frontlines Clark County. They were watching the national news and saw someone in Washington, D.C., sending restaurant meals to health care workers.
“I knew that we had a local need for that here and we got started. Thirty-six hours later we were making our first delivery,” Mike Terry said.
In its first nine days, Feed the Frontlines Clark County has provided 200 meals to frontline workers. PeaceHealth Southwest emergency department, intensive care and security workers received 150 meals prepared by Mesa Restaurant in downtown Camas. Cedar Street Bagels made 50 meals for Providence Medical Group in Camas.
Feed the Frontlines plans on providing meals from Natalia’s Cafe to Legacy Medical Group in Camas.
“If we’re going to keep doing this at this high level, we need donations on our GoFundMe page and volunteers,” Mike Terry said.
Volunteers must be healthy and bring their own mask and gloves. They pick up food from the restaurant and drop it off to the recipients, which typically takes less than an hour. It’s not a huge time commitment, but it’s crucial to the mission of this group.
“This doesn’t happen without support from people in the community,” Mike Terry said.
Some businesses have created promotional programs that donate food if customers buy products from them. Seidy and Matthew Selivanow, owners of Kafiex Coffee Roasters, placed a special tab on their website to buy carafes of Kafiex coffee for PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center staff.
“My dad and sister are both doctors in Mexico,” Seidy Selivanow said. “We have a direct connection with health heroes and we want to make sure that health care workers here feel our appreciation.”
If you buy a 96-ounce carafe of brewed coffee for health care workers, Kafiex will donate an additional carafe. Coffee will be delivered weekly to the hospital. Buyers can leave a personal note at checkout and Kafiex will give these notes to health care workers.
Seize the Bagel also added a special tab on its site to sponsor a delivery.
Twig’s Bistro recently launched its Buy a Meal-Give a Meal program. Twigs donated 50 meals on April 1 to kick off the program, said Todd MacLean, general manager. The restaurant plans on making donations on Fridays and Saturdays. Meals are currently going to PeaceHealth Southwest and Legacy Salmon Creek hospitals.
Individuals have also stepped up. An anonymous donor bought brisket sandwiches from The Smokin’ Oak for firefighters. Carol Anderson donated 70 specially decorated cookies from Chandelier Bakery for workers at PeaceHealth.
Anna Otoupal, a recovery nurse at PeaceHealth, appreciates the donations.
“It’s nice to know that your community supports you,” she said. “When we come into the break room and see food it makes everybody happy.”