Extra Helping: Feed the Frontline funds 11K meals from local restaurants for healthcare workers and more good food deeds

The kitchen at Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft preparing orders for Feed the Frontline. COURTESY OF TAMARIND RESTAURANT GROUP

The kitchen at Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft preparing orders for Feed the Frontline. COURTESY OF TAMARIND RESTAURANT GROUP

Feed the Frontline, the charitable initiative started by the James M. Cox Foundation, Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation and the Douglas J. Hertz Family, is not easy to pin down. The initiative to feed frontline workers serving in emergency rooms, ICUs and critical care wards at numerous Atlanta hospitals began just days ago, and versions of the phrase "feed the frontline" are common in the quickly expanding universe of coronavirus charities. There's even a restaurant group not involved in the official initiative asking customers to use the hashtag #feedthefrontline on social media for their own separate (if admirable) efforts to get meals to healthcare professionals.

But Feed the Frontline is actually very simple in concept: the initiative raises money to place catering orders from local restaurants to give to healthcare workers at no cost. The organization effectively supports both local restaurants and medical personnel.

Feed the Frontline is an initiative created by the James M. Cox Foundation and Emory University.

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In its first week of existence, Feed the Frontline raised $800,000 from more than 700 donors and provided 11,000 meals to frontline responders. Since the initiative's update last Friday, the number of donors has grown to more than 850. The free meals are gratefully received by hospital workers at facilities all over the city, as well as Atlanta police, fire and rescue personnel. But for the restaurants involved, Feed the Frontline has been a lifeline, as well.

“I’m so proud of the Atlanta restaurant community. It’s been so brutal,” said chef Linton Hopkins, who owns the restaurant group Hopkins & Co with his wife, Gina. “We can get through this. The last professions standing are ag-based and health-based.It shows the importance of restaurants, food service, cooks - feeding the people who are doing our healthcare.”

Feed the Frontline has set a goal of serving 45,000 meals by May 1. That means tens of thousands of meals purchased from eight local restaurant groups: Hopkins & Co. (Holeman + Finch, C. Ellet’s and others), Tamarind Restaurant Group (Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft, Chai Yo, Nan Thai Fine Dining), Fifth Group (South City Kitchen, Ecco and more), Unsukay Concepts (Local Three, Muss & Turner’s and more), Southern Proper Hospitality (Tin Lizzy’s, the Southern Gentleman and more), Bazati, Avalon Catering and Chez Montier Catering.

According to Hopkins, the reliable weekly orders have allowed some participating restaurants to rehire staff and increase their supply orders from local farmers and other vendors. For these workers, also considered essential under Georgia's shelter-in-place order, the chance to get back in the kitchen and earn some sort of wage is critical aid at a time when unemployment benefits are not easily accessible as government institutions are overwhelmed by the unprecedented number of claims.

Restaurant owners and workers alike appreciate the chance to support frontline healthcare personnel, too.

“We are … using our kitchen at Tuk Tuk Thai Food Loft to prepare all of the Feed the Frontlines meals each week,” said Chef DeeDee Niyomkul, a member of the family that owns Tamarind Restaurant Group. “I am grateful for the opportunity to support the healthcare workers that are putting their lives at risk on a daily basis during these difficult times.”

Even More Helpings:

Local burrito chain Willy's Mexicana Grill has set the goal of raising $2,500 per week to feed those served by two of its partner charities, The Giving Kitchen and the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Atlanta. By raising that amount, the restaurant chain will be able to feed 200 out-of-work restaurant employees through the Giving Kitchen and 200 more children through the Boys & Girls Club. Willy's met its goal in the initiative's first active week and is beginning its second week today. Donate by visiting Willy's GoFundMe page.

Farm fresh grocery bags from Zunzi's Atlanta location. COURTESY OF ZUNZI'S

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Today, the Atlanta location of Zunzi's, the South African sandwich shop, will begin selling fresh farm bags full of groceries and matching each purchase with a donation to Second Helpings Atlanta. The farm bags cost $100 and include a laundry list of fresh fruit and vegetables. An identical bag or its monetary equivalent will be donated to the local food bank Second Helpings, and orders are available for curbside pickup only. Place an order and pick it up the next day at Zunzi's on Howell Mill Road in West Midtown. Payment and the grocery transfer will be completely no-contact, and the number of orders will initially be limited to 50 per day. Order online at zunzis.com.

For three weeks, upscale Buckhead restaurant Mission + Market has been providing free meals each Thursday to anyone unemployed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant plans to continue the program every week for the foreseeable future. "In only 3 weeks' time, we've had the privilege to provide more than 500 meals to our community that have found themselves jobless due to this unimaginable virus," said executive chef Ian Winslade. "We hope to be able to continue to grow this program, providing as much and as often as we can." The restaurant has been able to offer the program thanks to corporate sponsorship and is seeking additional sponsors to aid in expanding their charitable efforts. Anyone interested in discussing sponsorship can contact the restaurant at info@missionandmarketatl.com or call 404-948-2927.

NPC International, the world's largest Pizza Hut franchisee, has served more than 500 pizzas to healthcare workers at the Northside Hospital System and Northeast Georgia Health System in the past week. The personal pan pizzas served to the hospital personnel are completely contactless as they are prepped, cooked and delivered in individual foil pans. Learn more about NPC International here.

Medical workers in Columbus received meals from Chicken Salad Chick at no cost through a donation from BWP Cares. COURTESY OF BWP CARES

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Georgia law firm Butler, Wooten & Peak has donated the funds to provide nearly 4,000 meals to healthcare workers in Columbus, and the firm has placed large orders in Savannah and Atlanta, as well. Through a hastily created organization called BWP Cares, seeded with money from the firm's partners, about 2,000 meals will be provided in Savannah and more than 1,500 have been ordered from Henri's Bakery in Atlanta to be delivered to a long list of hospitals around the city. For more information, check out the public Facebook group for BWP Cares.

In case you missed it, the AJC announced last week that it would be providing free online advertising to local restaurants during the coronavirus crisis. Read more here.


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