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The Meal Bridge expands to new hospitals, cities and more metro Atlanta dining news from the week

Grey Cohen is a sophomore at Druid Hills High School and the driving force behind the Meal Bridge. COURTESY OF THE MEAL BRIDGE
Grey Cohen is a sophomore at Druid Hills High School and the driving force behind the Meal Bridge. COURTESY OF THE MEAL BRIDGE

Teenager’s nonprofit now serves more than a dozen medical facilities in Atlanta, DC and Seattle.

The Meal Bridge, a nonprofit organization started by an  Atlanta teenager that links donors, restaurants and hospitals, has now expanded to more than a dozen restaurants in Atlanta, Washington, D.C. and Seattle.

Started in late march by Grey Cohen, 16, with the help of her family, the Meal Bridge serves as a platform that allows people to order catered meals from local restaurants to be delivered to hospital personnel. Cohen’s organization was highlighted by the AJC on March 25 and worked with just one medical facility at the time: Emory University Hospital, where Cohen’s mother works.

Since then, the Meal Bridge has ballooned to serve more than a dozen medical facilities in the Atlanta area. The organization has facilitated the delivery of around 3,500 meals, all from local restaurants. Cohen said that a Decatur-area Panera re-hired workers to handle the high volume of orders.

In just a few weeks, the reach of the Meal Bridge has expanded coast to coast. The organization works with hospitals and restaurants in both Seattle and Washington, D.C., and expects more join from other locations.

“I’ve probably talked to about a dozen people across the country,” said Cohen. “They love this idea and they’re enthusiastic about bringing it to their city.”

Despite the success of the Meal Bridge, Cohen is generous with her organization’s idea and intellectual property. She shares the details of how the Meal Bridge works with anyone interested, and said that interested volunteers are welcome to use her model on their own or become a branch manager for the Meal Bridge.

This week’s spring break has been well-timed for Cohen, who was able to spend extra time working on the increasingly demanding nonprofit. “It’s about balancing my time with the Meal Bridge getting big and my schoolwork,” she said. “When I have to go back to my online classes next week, I’ll have to reorganize how I’m managing my day.”

As the Meal Bridge has grown, Cohen has been interviewed by several publications and was featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360. As the organization’s profile has grown, Cohen has been contacted by people interested in donating funds to the Meal Bridge. She refers them instead to other organizations doing similar work that are already set up to accept cash. Cohen said that she sees the Meal Bridge as an organization for providing meals and is not interested in managing monetary donations right now.

As Cohen worked on the Meal Bridge during spring break, her family was touched by very pandemic her organization is helping to fight. Her mother, Dena Cohen, tested positive for COVID-19. It was a mild case, however, so she wasn’t hospitalized and is already recovering well. “She’s been quarantined to her room,” said the younger Cohen with a laugh.

More dining news:

Lazy Betty will reopen for takeout service next week. The fine dining restaurant will begin Lazy Betty Family Meals on April 14, offering online order for takeout meals with curbside pickup or delivery for a $5 fee. Individually priced salads, entrees and desserts are available in portions feeding two or four. Menu options are comforting and nutritious, including options kale Caesar salad, bacon-crusted pork loin, roasted cauliflower with gremolata and a variety of sweets that can be mixed and matched. The restaurant is also taking great pains to keep its staff safe, staggering shifts to ensure there is space for social distancing and working shorter hours to ease anxiety and promote mental health during this difficult time. Orders can be placed by visiting the restaurant's website at lazybettyatl.com.

Chef Hugh Acheson at his Athens restaurant 5&10, which has received a grant from chef Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen to supply 500 meals a day to communities in need. COURTESY OF 5&10
Chef Hugh Acheson at his Athens restaurant 5&10, which has received a grant from chef Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen to supply 500 meals a day to communities in need. COURTESY OF 5&10

Chef Hugh Acheson's Athens restaurant 5&10 has received a grant from chef Jose Andres's World Central Kitchen organization. As a result, the restaurant will discontinue takeout ordering and focus on the mission of the grant: providing 500 meals per day to local communities in need. Thursday, April 9 was 5&10's first day pursuing that mission, and the restaurant served 500 boxes of hoppin' john and roasted ham salad to the Athens Community Council on Aging. 5&10 has a GoFundMe set up for restaurant staff and is offering gift cards at a 20% discount. Read more here.

DoorDash is temporarily reducing commission fees by 50% for local restaurants on both of its ordering platforms, DoorDash and Caviar. The company is pledging an estimated $100 million to the program, which will run April 13 - May 31. The program comes at a time when many restaurants are scrambling to be added to food delivery apps and the apps themselves are being questioned for commission fees that erode restaurant profits. Read more here.

The disco ball over the Johnny's Hideaway dance floor. COURTESY OF JOHNNY'S HIDEAWAY.
The disco ball over the Johnny's Hideaway dance floor. COURTESY OF JOHNNY'S HIDEAWAY.

Not even a pandemic can shut down the DJ at Johnny's Hideaway. This Saturday, the popular nightclub is bringing the party into your living room with a Facebook live dance party hosted by DJ Spencer Pearson. From 8 p.m. to midnight on April 11, Johnny's Hideaway will stream Pearson's DJ set from live from the booth at the club. Pour yourself a drink and, for the first time ever, take it onto the dance floor. Stream the party live at facebook.com/johnnyshideaway.

Direct-to-consumer beverage brand Haus has launched the Restaurant Project, an initiative that co-creates aperitifs with chefs across the country and gives 100% of profits to their restaurants. From Georgia, chef Hugh Acheson's Empire State South has signed onto the initiative. Consulting with Haus, the restaurant's aperitif will be flavored with herbs and citrus, like bay leaves, thyme, kumquat and bergamot with a hint of vanilla. The Haus x Empire State South aperitif is available for preorder now, with all profits going immediately to the restaurant, with delivery expected in mid-May. Order directly from the brand's website at http://drink.haus/.

After opening as a butcher shop and produce stand last weekend, Box Car at Hop City West End will continue its fresh food pop-ups each Saturday from 12-4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 4-8 p.m. The pop-up, Brian's Butcher Shop, will sell locally-sourced, high-quality meat and produce at reasonable prices in a neighborhood with fewer grocery options. Hop City remains open seven days a week, and the Hop City family of companies has continued to pay its more than 100 employees, said CEO Kraig Torres. For more information, visit boxcaratl.com.

Cafe Intermezzo will distribute 2,500 boxes of groceries to food service workers this Friday and Saturday. Boxes will be available at the cafe's Midtown location on a first come, first serve basis. Read more here.

The AJC is offering free online advertising to local restaurants during the coronavirus crisis. As the newspaper's web traffic surges, the publication is finding additional ways to serve its community. Read more here.

Coast App, an online messaging and scheduling platform for restaurants, has created a map of restaurants offering takeout around Atlanta. The map, created with user-submitted listings, already includes more than 400 restaurants. View the Atlanta map at coastapp.com/takeoutcovid/atl.

For a deeper dive into the Atlanta restaurant scene during the coronavirus pandemic and AJC's coverage of restaurants, listen to this week's AJC accessAtlanta podcast featuring dining editor Ligaya Figueras. Read more and access the podcast here.

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