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While cases of COVID-19 continue to grow in the area and a spike is expected within the next month, first responders and medical professionals continue to work at the front lines of the virus. In the month since the coronavirus began to threaten the Thomas Jefferson Health District, many area residents have formed volunteer groups or given donations to help aid those most impacted by the pandemic. Now, a Washington, D.C.-based organization is stepping in to help bolster local efforts to keep people fed.
World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit organization formed in 2010 in response to earthquakes in Haiti, has partnered with a coalition of Charlottesville-area volunteers and restaurants called Frontline Foods Charlottesville.
WCK has fiscally supported local efforts and also has created a website where those interested can donate funds. The Blue Ridge Group and catering/food truck company The 106 also have supported efforts through coordination, fundraising and planning.
Through the partnership with WCK, local restaurants and medical and first responders stand to benefit. The funds go to the restaurants for the food and labor while all of the meals go towards healthcare professionals.
“I believe there is a way to help both these groups — the restaurants suffering from business closures and those on the frontlines of COVID-19,” said Hunter Smith, of Champion Hospitality Group.
Smith also said the various groups have been able to coordinate and assemble in a short amount of time and have goals to expand. On Friday, he delivered meals that his staff had prepped in Champion’s Brasserie Saison to staff on several floors of University of Virginia Health’s medical complex.
“We are sort of just getting the first most immediate needs and the emergency and [intensive care unit] departments, “ Smith said. “We will expand into nurses and other staff and we expect that number to grow, so roping in other restaurants is going to help.”
This week, other partners like Order Up! and The 106 have been hosting a drive-thru for Emergency Medical Services as well as city and county fire and police departments. They have also been delivering meals to University of Virginia Health and Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital — each group leveraging their donor bases and friends willing to help out. The Chris Long Foundation, along with the Charlottesville Food Justice Network have partnered with Pearl Island and Mochiko to deliver food to Charlottesville City School students over what would have been their spring break.
“World Central Kitchen is an efficient, ready-to-go model that has been tried and tested throughout disasters taking place across the globe,” said Charlottesville Food Justice Network’s Shantell Bingham. “I’m most excited about applying it here with a focused intention on building economic equity throughout the process of connecting philanthropic opportunity to the need because what we’re facing now will likely build more devastating inequality in our community after the dust settles from COVID-19 depending on how we tackle it.”
Area entrepreneur and philanthropist John Kluge Jr. helped connect WCK to local efforts. While organizing around the efforts has been swift, each organization and group aims to broaden their efforts to serve more of the community.
“It’s all been very quick, and we are learning as we go, but having the backdrop of a broad organization is helpful,” Smith said.
“We’re grateful for the opportunity to have the support of [WCK] but this will need to be a sustained effort for that, we’ll need all the help we can get,” Kluge said.
To make a one-time or monthly donation to Frontline Foods Charlottesville, click here.
To sign up to volunteer with food delivery, email firstname.lastname@example.org