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Frontline Foods Charlotte continues to feed healthcare workers while keeping local restaurants afloat

By Shaun Bowman

May 14, 2020

The service industry has been hit incredibly hard during the Covid-19 pandemic and, with doors closed to dine-in customers until Phase 2 of reopening begins, funds are tight for many. This new phase of reopening could occur as early as May 22, but even then restaurants’ in-house capacities will be limited by strict social distancing and safety protocols. One nonprofit, Frontline Foods, is stepping up to make sure that local restaurants survive.

In partnership with the World Central Kitchen (WCK), Frontline Foods accepts contributions from individuals, foundations and corporate partners, distributing that money to purchase meals from local restaurants to deliver to frontline workers. In the Charlotte chapter, those frontline workers include medical teams at Novant and Atrium, as well as Mecklenburg County’s first responders, such as medics and firefighters.

“The whole idea is that frontline healthcare workers need to be fed, and they need to be fed well so they can go about their business and not have to worry about that part of their day,” said Julia Simon, owner of Nourish Charlotte, a vegan and gluten-free meal delivery service. 

Julia Simon, owner of Nourish Charlotte.

Simon heard about Frontline Foods San Francisco when it was initially launched and was quick to jump on the opportunity to start a Charlotte branch. Alongside Mary Frank Swain, an established local fundraising consultant, Frontline Foods Charlotte was born– only one week after the San Francisco chapter had launched. Since then, the Charlotte team has expanded to include seven total members who are helping coordinate the quickly growing operation. 

In fact, the organization now boasts 57 chapters in cities across the country. The original Frontline Foods branch began after a pediatric nurse, Sydney Gressel, was asked by her friends how they could help support her as she was serving on the front lines of the pandemic. She responded that healthcare workers were no longer able to leave hospital campuses, and restaurants were closing and limiting options simultaneously, so these workers needed food. The team problem-solved and united with other similar efforts across the country: they’d support local restaurants while also feeding those serving on the front lines. Since then, Frontline Foods has now supported over 920 restaurants, delivering 350,000+ meals to over 600 frontline teams. 

So far, Frontline Foods Charlotte has reported over $75,000 in donations. These funds have facilitated partnerships with 17 local restaurants, making it possible for over 3,210 meals to be delivered to 14 frontline sites.

Local restaurants that have collaborated with Frontlines Charlotte include 300 East, Nourish, Alternative Chef NC, Chef Alyssa’s Kitchen, Bardo Restaurant, Loving Hut Vegan Restaurant, Zia Pia Imports + Italian Kitchen, The Common Market, Sabor Latin Street Grill, QC Catering, The Loyalist Market, Sea Level NC, The Stanley, Leah & Louise/The Yolk Cafe, Poplar – Tapas Restaurant & Bar, and Viva Raw.

The Frontline partnership is a lifeline for these restaurants and catering businesses, who are learning to be adaptable and creative in order to survive. 

Culinary director and managing partner at 300 East, Ashley Boyd. Photo: Jeremy Deal

Ashley Boyd, culinary director and managing partner at 300 East, has helped to pivot her restaurant during this take-out only time. 300 East has been serving guests in Charlotte since 1986, but this crisis has put them into uncharted territory, so as soon as Boyd heard about Frontline Foods Charlotte, she wanted to get involved.

It’s so important. A job with Frontline is a day’s sales or more. That’s how important it is right now. It’s a brilliant idea,” said Boyd. “We can also feel great about doing those jobs at the end of the day because not only is it helping us stay afloat, but it’s delivering healthy food to the people who are doing the most important work that we have right now. It’s just a great thing.”

As weeks turn to months, Boyd sees this transitional time period as an opportunity for growth. “Every move you make, everything you put on the menu is monumentally important. Every decision you make is monumentally important,” she said. “We are thinking so hard about who we are as a business, who we are becoming, who do we want to be if we survive this– if we get back to some semblance of normal.” 

The team with Frontline Foods Charlotte will continue to raise funds to help the operation grow. They have a waitlist of local restaurants hoping to get involved, but are currently keeping the pool of small business collaborations small so that they can have the greatest possible impact. Frontline Foods Charlotte is actively seeking new donor partnerships so they can continue to support and sustain some of the city’s cherished restaurants.

You can donate to Frontline Foods Charlotte, sign up for delivery service if you’re a frontline worker, or get on the waiting list as a restaurant at FrontlineFoods.org/Charlotte.

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