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East Bay Author's Idea Feeds Hospital Workers, Helps Struggling Restaurants During Coronavirus Pandemic

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- An East Bay author has come up with a way to feed frontline hospital workers, help struggling restaurants and give people a chance to contribute during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Writer Ayelet Waldman had just ordered dinner to support a local restaurant when she heard from a doctor friend, delighted at receiving a surprise meal delivery at the emergency room.

She thought about the two separate occurrences, and a light bulb switched on.

"And I thought, 'Wait a minute! Two great cases that taste great together, I can do that,'" Waldman said.


She asked Tanya Holland of Brown Sugar Kitchen to cook 25 meals and drove them to a grateful emergency room staff at Highland Hospital.

"And I just said, 'Hey guys, anybody want lunch? And I saw this nurse who burst into tears," Waldman said. "And she said, 'The community is being so amazing to us, I'm overwhelmed by it.'"

Waldman spread the word on social media and East Bay FeedER was born.

It partners with World Central Kitchen and uses thousands of private donations to purchase full-price meals from about 50 East Bay independent restaurants like Shakewell in Oakland.

Coordinator Jenny Schwarz of Hopscotch in Oakland says the orders keep the businesses afloat.

"Now they have a consistent order a week and we're trying to grow that and it's making a huge impact," Schwarz said.

LEARN MORE: Jefferson Awards for Public Service

Dozens of volunteers deliver the meals twice a day to feed those fighting the pandemic in five East Bay hospital intensive care units. "We put love on the bag," said Shakewell co-owner Tim Nugent as he prepared the to-go packages. "They're so important to us and we love them all."

"These people work under worst conditions," said Waldman. "There's a good chance they might be infected with this potentially deadly virus."

Dr. Brian Potts, emergency room medical director with Sutter's Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Berkeley campus, described how the gifts nourish their body and spirit.

"It definitely puts smiles on people's faces," Dr. Potts said. "Obviously people are anxious about what's going on throughout the Bay Area and throughout the world. It just kind of gives everybody a ten-minute pause to eat some food, put food in their stomachs, and put a smile on their face again."

And those who give smile, too, thanks to the idea Waldman grew. Schwarz says Waldman is the kind of person who doesns't take no for an answer.

"There's no stopping. It's just, 'Idea, 100 percent, 100 miles an hour. Go for it, make it happen,'" Schwarz said.

"It makes you feel good to know that you've made someone else feel good," said Waldman.

As of April 21, East BayFeedER has raised more than $422,000 through more than 3,000 contributors and served more than 6,000 meals. The meals are prepared in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control safety standards.

So for cooking up a three-pronged approach for people to give to sustain hospital workers and local restaurants, this week's Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Ayelet Waldman.


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