Nationwide initiative to feed hungry clinicians, boost local restaurants to debut in Vermont

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Next week, a nationwide intiative will launch in Vermont to deliver meals to doctors and nurses at the University of Vermont Medical Center who are working under difficult conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s called Frontline Foods, and it’s operating in more than a dozen cities to support both local clinicians and local restaurants that are struggling since Gov. Phil Scott’s directive to restrict service to take-out and delivery.

“Number one, we were going to help our frontline caregivers get fed and bring them nourishing food,” Sheramy Tsai, a nurse and organizer of the Vermont effort, said. “And number two, we were going to be able to get restaurants some economic security during a really tough time.”

Tsai said she and her friend, Kristie Stern, agreed they needed to do something. Instead of working in isolation, they began researching what other cities are doing, and that led them to Frontline Foods.

“I thought that’s a great idea for Vermont,” Stern said. “We have so many mom and pop restaurants and were such a locally focused community that how do we stay afloat during this crisis.”

With help from community donations, local restaurants will receive money to cook individually packaged meals which will then be delivered to critical care workers at UVMMC. To start, organizers are aiming for deliveries about 3-4 times a week to about 50 emergency room and ICU staff members.

“I’m a nurse myself so I understand the importance of providing for our front line care workers,” Tsai said. “Even on a normal day, it’s very stressful working at any of those units in the hospital.”

A small business owner herself, Stern says this step could make a big difference for restaurants.

“Hopefully this will give restaurants the opportunity to open their doors and bring 1 or 2 people back on staff,” she said. “In a small community, 1 or 2 people working makes a huge difference.”

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