When the coronavirus pandemic hit and restaurants were forced to either close or limit operations to takeout and delivery, a group of Montreal food bloggers started thinking outside the box.
They found a way to help restaurants shift gears while also supporting health-care workers.
“We couldn’t do our reviews, what we really like to do as a team, so we came up with this initiative. It’s called Feed the Heroes MTL,” said Sevan Apanian, one of the three bloggers behind Jacky Eats MTL.
“They can’t stay home and they’re risking their lives, so we want to thank them.”
Once the food bloggers secure a donation, they find a group of front-line health-care workers and then match them with a restaurant, which then establishes a menu with vegetarian and vegan options.
“Logistically speaking it’s a lot of work,” said Apanian. “We make sure we have the right number of meals delivered at the right time and the right place.” They also deliver in the evenings and overnight to make sure all workers can reap the benefits.
Donors can even suggest a specific health-care team they’d like to help.
The group has collected close to $15,000 through a GoFundMe campaign and other community donations. With the help of several restaurants and catering companies, they’ve already hand-delivered more than 2,500 meals to hospitals across the city.
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The cost of the meals, between $5 and $7, is covered by the donations, but the restaurants prepare the food for free.
“We’re preparing 250 meals today for Santa Cabrini Hospital with lots of love and just to give back to the heroes that are fighting for us every day while keeping the rest of the world safe,” said Michael Barone, owner and chef at Ahuntsic restaurant La Molisana.
The pandemic has forced the family-run restaurant to reduce operating hours, but the new initiative helps keep staff working — and it’s rewarding, Barone says.
“It’s not the first time; it won’t be the last time,” Barone said about taking part in Feed the Heroes MTL.
The donor behind the latest delivery to Santa Cabrini’s front-line workers is someone who has seen first hand how COVID-19 is affecting elderly Montrealers.
Giovanni Migliara owns Groupe Excellence, which operates five seniors’ residences, three of which are in the city’s east end, near Santa Cabrini.
“I wanted to give back to them and honestly, they’ve been great. They’ve been doing so much for our seniors,” said Migliara.
“They are guardian angels to all of us.”
Health-care workers at Santa Cabrini welcomed the meals with open arms, while, of course, keeping their distance.
“Gestures like this really mean a lot for everybody,” said internal medicine specialist Dr. Daniel Kaud. “The team really appreciates it and we feel that the community cares about us.”
Kaud is part of the critical-care unit and has been sleeping in the hospital’s basement for weeks.
“It’s been difficult,” he said. “I haven’t really seen my kids close up, I haven’t been able to hold them for the last two months.”
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