Food & Wine

Food on the front lines: Restaurants, hospital workers benefit from temporary partnership

Courtesy of Zareen Khan
Local hospital staff pose in appreciation for a photo with their meals from Zareen's.

 Los Altos and Mountain View restaurants are joining forces with their customers to feed health-care workers on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus.

Chef Chu’s and The Post in Los Altos and Blue Line Pizza in Mountain View are among the local eateries involved in serving the health-care providers that serve the community. Zareen’s and Hobee’s restaurants are collaborating with the nonprofit Frontline Foods to provide meals to doctors and nurses.

Community steps up

For Chef Chu’s, a recent partnership with Facebook has been a win-win. General manager Larry Chu Jr. said a donation from the company funded 500 meals the restaurant is offering to staff at El Camino Hospital.

Chu Jr. said other anonymous donors have been calling him to ask how they can help. The contributions have funded weekly meals for Mountain View and Los Altos police officers, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and the VA hospital in Palo Alto. The staff at Kaiser Medical Center in San Jose will be treated Monday to 50 lunches from Chef Chu’s.

“It’s been really nice,” Chu Jr. said. “People have wanted (to make) these donations for first responders and keep us working.”

Andrew Cope, president of El Camino Health Foundation, said the surge in meals and gift cards donated to the hospital has made staff “unbelievably appreciative.”

According to Cope, donors recently provided meals for lab work teams that left one employee nearly tearing up as she shared how much the gesture meant.

“We were well prepared for this (crisis), but the community support has made sure that not only staff morale has been kept up, but donations of supplies have helped to back up what (workers) have been using and doing,” he said, adding that the hospital is accepting personal protective equipment (PPE). “Each day staff comes into work, they are doing it so bravely. So anytime there’s been a gesture externally, it’s really made them feel valued.”

Blue Line Pizza, a small chain surviving the shelter-in-place order with help from its customers, is paying the support forward by delivering pizzas to local hospitals. The pizzeria has donated more than1,000 pizzas to at least 10 hospitals. More are scheduled next week, said co-owner Angela Pace.

Pace said Blue Line donated the first 1,000 pizzas, but an outpouring of public support has led to a GoFundMe page to raise additional funds.

“We will continue to deliver free pizzas for as long as we can,” she said. “While I hope it will be through the duration of the shelter-in-place mandate, the problem is that we don’t know how long this is all going to last. We won’t be able to do it alone for this entire time, so hopefully there are people who want to pay it forward to these masked heroes on the front line and donate a pizza to them.”

The Post has been donating meals to health-care workers for the past two weeks. Owner Vickie Breslin said she accepting donations and gift cards “for health-care workers, first responders and frontline workers.” A portion of the proceeds from the GoFundMe campaign established to help her Main Street restaurant will go to meals for health-care workers, and some will support Breslin’s staff, whose hours she has had to reduce.

Los Altos Chamber of Commerce president Kim Mosley said Breslin also has provided dozens of meals for Foothill College students who depended on the college’s food pantry, which has closed along with the school.

An ever-evolving charity

The nonprofit Frontline Foods launched last month after a group of people in San Francisco asked a friend who is a nurse taking care of COVID-19 patients how they could help her. Her reply? “Send pizza.”

In a matter of weeks, Frontline Foods has expanded from three Bay Area chapters to 35 nationwide. Celebrities are volunteering, and approximately 70,000 meals have been funded and delivered.

Ross Mayfield, director of Frontline Foods’ Silicon Valley chapter, praised the overwhelming response from the food service and health-care sectors and the general community and noted how the effort benefits both struggling restaurants and hospital workers.

“Some businesses have just closed, while others have tried to spin up and operate, asking ‘How do I do takeout and delivery safely?’” Mayfield said. “I don’t think people have realized it’s almost a civic duty to order takeout directly, not through an intermediary service that takes 30%. We give businesses needed cash flow. One out of every $10 goes into the operating profit that they can reinvest back into their business by hiring people back.”

For Camille Chijate, president of Hobee’s, Mayfield’s offer of a temporary contract to help her business could not have come at a better time. She was in the process of figuring out how to pay staff from the currently shuttered Mountain View location. The Central Expressway location is buzzing again, with a goal to reopen for delivery and takeout between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“We made a triage decision not to open the Mountain View (location), hoping customers would go to Palo Alto,” Chijate said. “But that left the Mountain View crowd out in the cold – they’re itching to help.”

Zareen Khan of Zareen’s was spending her own money to bring halal food to Valley Medical Center for a few weeks before she started a GoFundMe page that now supports biweekly meals for isolation staffers. Dr. Enoch Choi, a Palo Alto resident who oversees a COVID treatment unit, said the 30 lunches and dinners delivered by Zareen’s and other local eateries daily has been a saving grace in difficult times.

“It really helps a lot, because otherwise these folks would be (spending time) ordering out or going to pick up food and not spending time with patients,” said Choi, a longtime fan of Zareen’s Pakistani food. “Zareen mentioned she might come by and deliver the food herself. I really felt the heart in that. … It’s not something I’ve seen anyone do.”

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