Volunteers rally around hospital workers, restaurants 

  • Joan Levy, a volunteer with the Northampton-based Feed the Frontlines program, drops off food made by Bueno Y Sano, while Dalene Twarosch, a supervisor at Cooley Dickinson Hospital picks it up and wheels it into the hospital Monday afternoon. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Dalene Twarosch, a supervisor at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, wheels food donated by Bueno Y Sano into the hospital Monday afternoon as a part of the Northampton-based Feed the Frontlines program. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 4/20/2020 2:46:49 PM

NORTHAMPTON — When times are hard, Amherst resident Lisa Oram’s first instinct has always been to feed people. So when the COVID-19 pandemic struck the Pioneer Valley, her thoughts turned to who would best benefit from free, delivered meals.

This nurturing tendency “comes partly from being a Jewish mother, it comes partly from loving food,” said Oram, the marketing director at Snow Farm: The New England Craft Program. During this crisis, she added, “I thought about the hospital workers.”

Oram’s idea has since evolved into a volunteer-sponsored program, known as “Feed the Frontlines,” to provide meals for 30 Cooley Dickinson Hospital employees every day. Launched earlier this month, the initiative, now overseen by the Downtown Northampton Association (DNA), has already raised over $45,000 and partnered with 20 restaurants.

The program began when Oram took to Facebook to ask if any initiatives were already in place to deliver meals to hospital workers. None of the respondents seemed to know of any, Oram said, but they were eager for an opportunity to help.

“It just touched so many people in such a strong way, and that was really beautiful,” Oram said.

Soon afterwards, Oram also enlisted the help of her husband, Steve Brown; NDA executive director Amy Cahillane, who also looped in the Amherst Business Improvement District (BID); and Northampton realtor Laura Sandvik, who also had reached out to Cooley Dickinson in hopes of providing staff with meals.

For Cahillane, the program “gives people a way to contribute and give back in a very tangible, visible way,” she said. “There’s a correlation of their dollars to a visible purchase of something.”

As interest grew, so did the scope of the program: While originally intended to serve lunches to 20 hospital workers five days a week, the initiative now provides lunch and dinner seven days a week to an additional 10 employees, delivered to the hospital twice daily by volunteer drivers.

Participating restaurants include Holyoke Hummus, Belly of the Beast, Florence Pie Bar, Local Burger and Mission Cantina. A full list, in addition to volunteering information, is available at https://northampton.live/feedthefrontlines

With the amount of money that has been raised, Oram says that the organizers have more than enough to provide meals through June. They are now considering other ways to donate the money — Oram has considered a cash donation to pay for personal protective equipment at the hospital, as well as flower deliveries to lift employees’ spirits as spring arrives.

Cahillane said that the DNA is also considering delivering meals to frontline workers at local nursing homes.

In addition to helping hospital workers, Oram said that the program also supports local business by providing restaurants with a steady income.

“We didn’t want them to donate anything,” Oram said. “We wanted to pay them, because we wanted them to also benefit. But all of them were so grateful not only for the opportunity to get the business, but for the opportunity to have their food go to Cooley.”

The hospital rotates the meals to all 20 of its departments, Oram said, including not only health care workers, but cleaning and other support staff as well. As a result, Oram said, “At the end of 20 days, every department in the hospital has gotten a little bit of delicious kindness.”

Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


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