Restaurants might be the industry suffering the most collateral damage from the COVID-19 pandemic, but that hasn’t stopped the Ore House and partners from starting a program to provide tasty meals for medical providers on the battle’s front lines.
Ryan Lowe, owner of the Ore House, is working to bring other restaurants together to prepare meals for nurses, doctors and other medical professionals at Mercy Regional Medical Center.
“As we’ve watched the COVID-19 virus spread around the country, hospitals have become overwhelmed. It’s more in the cities, but we were worried there’s the potential for Mercy to have the same issue,” Lowe said.
The Ore House owner heard about a national effort called Feeding the Frontline – organized initially by a shuttered pizzeria in Boston that soon spread to San Francisco – to prepare meals for medical workers in hospitals, clinics and other medical sites.
“It’s really a scalable program. I think it’s something that will be super helpful now and potentially in the future. If we ever have a need like this, it’s something that we can kind of turn the keys back on,” Lowe said.
All participating restaurants will comply with Mercy’s requirements to ensure meals are sanitary and coronavirus-free, including the wearing of masks by cooks and taking employees’ temperatures every two hours.
“We have been working closely with the six restaurants in this effort to bring food to our campus and coordinated through the shifts. The timing needs to be central. And then of course, it also needs to be done in a way that is safe from a COVID-protection standpoint as we bring it in,” said Mercy interim CEO Mike Murphy.
Restaurants will also provide a service in which Mercy employees can come by at the end of their shifts to pick up meals for dinnertime, Murphy said.
“That is very helpful after you’ve had a long shift, you don’t want to come home and cook a meal,” he said.
Lowe reached out to Christina Rinderle and Chris Bettin, co-owners of Durango Land and Homes, to help organize Durango’s version of Feed the Frontline.
Word about the program went out to real estate offices, and Rinderle said that brought in $7,000 in seed funding.
Bettin spoke with Local First, which has created a webpage to serve as a home for donations for Feed the Frontlines Durango, and it has agreed to serve as the 501(c)(3) organization for the program in Durango.
As of Wednesday, Rinderle said Feed the Frontlines Durango had raised $16,000 of its $60,000 goal to provide 60 days worth of meals.
Wednesday was be the initial trial run for Feed the Frontlines Durango.
Lowe wants to make sure the operation has the bugs worked out before the COVID-19 pandemic peaks in La Plata County, which Murphy said he now expects in late April and early May.
“We hope to have between five and 10 restaurants ready to go on a daily basis to provide 100 meals per day. That number may change as the hospital’s needs change. And they give us more information about what they want. But that’s kind of the plan at this juncture now,” Bettin said.
Rinderle said the idea works on two fronts: It helps provide meals for medical workers who might find themselves fairly busy in the next month or so, and it helps restaurants provide some paid work hours and shifts for employees who have been furloughed by the stay-at-home order, which now extends through April 26.
“If we do have enough response with donations and we have the capacity, we’d like to expand this to the police department and fire department as well as our other first responders,” Rinderle said.