April 28, 2020 | Foodservice Industry
As healthcare workers run themselves ragged and local restaurants wonder how long they'll be able to afford to stay open, many eateries are pivoting in a unique direction: donating food to hospitals. Rice bowls, bento boxes, and sandwiches provide fast, easy, delicious meals for healthcare workers, while monetary donations from the public help keep the food coming.
At the moment, it's difficult for hospital staff to enjoy their favorite local eateries — it's hard to find the time, and some healthcare workers have even been subjected to harassment when out in public. Though hospitals have their own dining options, donations from restaurants help provide a more varied diet and a much-needed morale boost to workers. Here are just a few of the restaurants working hard to provide hospital staff and other healthcare workers with meals:
Sarge's Deli has been a fixture of New York City for 55 years. It's the quintessential Jewish-style deli, providing old-world specialties from cheesecake to in-house made pastrami and corned beef. They are open year-round, twenty for hours a day, providing generous portions of house-cured meats, homemade blintzes, and other dishes from a menu boasting 200 options. Sarge's recently delivered food to NYU Langone Health, including enough matzo ball soup to feed patients. The restaurant offers an online store that ships nationwide, as well as local takeout and delivery.
Bayshore favorite Local Burger, a casual burger joint offering hand-pressed burgers, local craft brews, homemade side dishes, and house-smoked barbecue, is providing meals to Northwell Health’s Southside Hospital every Monday. Mike McElwee, one of the owners of the restaurant, pointed out that they were happy to help — even though small businesses are suffering too, "if we all stick together and watch out for one another, we’ll all get through this.”
886, a casual Taiwanese restaurant in the East Village, received an outpouring of money from generous regular customers hoping to keep them afloat. Though 886 only required about $7k to pay staff and cover expenses, regulars contributed over $20k to the effort. In response, Eric Sze and Andy Chuang, the men behind the restaurant, began discussing ways to turn this influx of cash into a way to help local hospitals. Sze contacted New York Presbyterian’s Weill Cornell Medical Center and began producing microwavable bento boxes for hospital workers. 875 bento boxes later, and what started with one medical center has now expanded to 12 New York hospitals. According to the restaurant's website, they have donated over 7423 bento boxes as of this writing.
Ralph's, which has locations in the New York Metro Area and Long Island and New Jersey, was started in 1928 by a young man from Italy named Ralph Silvestro. He made Italian ices, ice cream, and frozen custard, and eventually expanded his business to his first retail store in Staten Island. Now, with locations all over New York and New Jersey, Ralph's is donating their famous frozen treats to local healthcare workers including Staten Island South Hospital, Huntington Hospital, and Nassau County 911 dispatch.
James Beard Award-winning Harlem restaurant FieldTrip provides a community-based dining experience centered around rice — a staple food in nearly every community. After the restaurant's owner and chef, JJ Johnson, posted to Twitter about packing and sending 40 rice bowls to Harlem Hospital Center (one of the city's COVID-19 testing sites), the restaurant received a large influx of cash from a fan in Maryland, in the form of an order for 170 more bowls. Half were sent to Harlem Hospital Center, and the other half were sent to Mount Sinai Hospital. Every day, they pick a hospital near the restaurant to help out.
La Famiglia, in Smithtown, Babylon Village, and Plainview, is a family-style Italian restaurant — every dish serves two or more people. After co-owner John Cracchiolo made social media posts telling patrons that the restaurant wanted to show gratitude to the community, donations poured in. While they originally planned to donate 50 meals a day to seniors and people struggling with food insecurity, they managed to triple that amount and donate food to healthcare workers at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center, as well. While the availability of ingredients has led to some dishes being cut from the menu, La Famiglia is still offering plenty of their delicious, generously-portioned food via their takeout menu.
As healthcare workers struggle to keep up with their patient load, moments of respite are few and far between. The generosity of these restaurants helps provide them with some of their favorite take-out meals, offering hospital staff a bright spot to each day. Benefactors can contact them through their websites to support these restaurants by providing monetary donations, purchasing gift cards, or arranging for take-out or delivery orders.