Meal with Love: Giving back to our medical workers

Medical+staff+from+Highland+Hospital+in+Oakland+hold+up+%22thank+you%22+signs+after+receiving+a+delivery+from+Meal+with+Love.+The+initiative+to+bring+meals+to+medical+workers+who+lack+the+time+to+cook+amid+the+COVID-19+pandemic+began+on+April+3+by+three+women+including+upper+school+parent+Cindy+Liu.+

Provided by Cindy Liu

Medical staff from Highland Hospital in Oakland hold up "thank you" signs after receiving a delivery from Meal with Love. The initiative to bring meals to medical workers who lack the time to cook amid the COVID-19 pandemic began on April 3 by three women including upper school parent Cindy Liu.

by Nicholas Wei, Reporter

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some medical workers are facing an unexpected problem: the lack of time to cook. To address this issue, a group of Bay Area women have started a fundraising effort to pay for and deliver meals to hospitals where medical staff have been struggling to find time to eat.

Upper school parent Cindy Liu decided to work with local restaurants to bring meals to medical staff when she met two other women on WeChat, a social messaging app. The three came together after they learned from a fellow WeChat user that members of the local medical community were forgoing meals in order to continue their work.

“We started on April 3 when one of my friends said he wanted to donate food to local hospitals because he heard some doctors had no time to cook,” Liu said. “They’ve been working non-stop for days. That night, we had a group meeting, and I said, ‘We should do something. We can talk to the local restaurant and see if they can help do something to help those doctors, and we’d pay for it.’ ”

Liu’s group decided to call their initiative Meal with Love. Upon hearing about the idea, one of Liu’s acquaintances contacted a restaurant owner, who immediately agreed to package several meals for the local hospital.

“[Her] response really surprised me because as soon as I said it, she talked to one of her friends, who was a restaurant owner, and they agreed right away to donate 33 dinner boxes. And we all know they had the biggest hit in this time because they have very little business now,” Liu said.

When Liu’s group called local hospitals, asking them if they needed supplies, some responded that they did not require assistance. Others, however, were in desperate need of meals.

“We called a couple [hospitals] like Stanford Hospital who replied that they weren’t as busy and encouraged us to donate the meals to those ICUs [Intensive Care Units] that really needed them,” Liu said. “But when we called some others like the Valley Medical Center and the Santa Clara ICU, they said, ‘Oh, thank you so much. We really needed that because everyone has no time to eat.’ They really appreciated it because now they don’t need to go back home and cook.” 

Liu and her friends began by paying for the meals themselves. In order to expand further, they knew they would need their community’s support. As they spread the word about their project, explaining that many would have to pitch in to feed the medical staff, they were quickly met with positive responses.

“We reached out to whoever we could find  and told them we were trying to [bring] support at least twice a week to those ICU or ER doctors. We started fundraising over the phone on April 5, and within 3 days we already received over $8,000. It was amazing.”

I wanted to contribute my part and help people eat, especially people who are working hard on the front lines.”

— Carmine Camporaso

Carmine Camporaso, who owns Ristorante Fratello, one of the first restaurants to which Meal with Love reached out, decided to donate meals even as his business resorted to takeout orders to keep itself afloat.

“It just amazes me how people are connected and affected [by] this event,” Camporaso said. “I wanted to contribute my part and help people eat, especially people who are working hard on the front lines. It’s about compassion and trying to help people around.”

The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is one location that Meal with Love supports. Dr Enoch Choi, the medical director at the Urgent Care facility, thanked the fundraising team for supporting his staff.

“Santa Clara Valley Medical Center is your county hospital. Downtown Urgent Care [sees] more than 100 people a day, and we have six doctors that work at a time,” he said. “It takes us a lot of effort to get out and get food and it takes time away from us spending time with patients and so we’re really appreciative of Meal with Love, which has been sending meals twice a week for our group of 30 folks that now can spend more time taking care of the patients rather than getting food.”

In the midst of the pandemic, Dr. Choi is heartened by his community’s aid. He hopes to spread the message of support and unity. 

“It’s just so amazing to feel the love of the community and specifically from Chinese American families in the community. A majority of our health care workers are people of color, and so to have people that look like us, take care of us, and root for us… is something that we wanted to publicize,” he said.

Facing rhetoric from President Donald Trump labeling COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus” on Twitter, Dr. Choi wanted to highlight that the Asian community was part of the fight against the disease.

“We’ve been sharing to try to reduce the anti-Asian xenophobia. You can’t call a disease the fault of anybody. We just are so thankful and we wanted to highlight to the public that Asian people and Chinese people were taking care of us and being supportive and helping us,” he said.

In the end, Liu feels that she is simply doing her part to help fight the pandemic. Meal with Love currently sends meals twice a week, and with more support, the program members hope to deliver more frequent meals.

“I feel there’s a lot of warm-hearted people out there. We’re just doing whatever we can do right to support. Right now, it’s only the three of us, but as more people are supporting our program, I feel we can get through this critical time,” Liu said.