Food companies serve free meals, treats to those in need and front-line workers during pandemic

Food companies serve free meals, treats to those in need and front-line workers during pandemic
Albert Elmore, a member of Redeemer Community Church in Avondale, hands out a meal and snacks at Southtown public housing community on Monday. The food was provided by Nourish Foods. (Solomon Crenshaw Jr./Alabama NewsCenter)

Mary Drennen said she didn’t really understand the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic until she and others handed out free meals March 30 on Birmingham’s Southside.

“It’ll tear your heartstrings up,” the Nourish Foods co-owner said. “It’s a greater purpose that we didn’t even realize that we could serve until this disease came about, or virus, however you call it. It is certainly rewarding for us to know that our business can step in and provide something for people that they literally have no access to.”

Nourish Foods is one of several companies – local and national – that have stepped in to help where they can to support those who are on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus.

1918 Catering helping others during COVID-19 pandemic from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Drennen and her business partner, Tiffany Davis, have connected with students who are not attending school for the rest of the year.

“Now that they’re without that one or two meals that they would have gotten at school, that’s obviously not an option,” she said. “We’re trying to work through that problem with Avondale, Woodlawn, Gate City areas in particular. Those are the first ones that we’re working with to find a solution for that.”

And they’re not alone. Every Monday, Krispy Kreme is giving a dozen doughnuts to each healthcare worker who visits.

Brittney Payne, a sterile surgical technician at UAB Highlands, said the sweets give healthcare providers their due.

“It’s nice,” the wife and mother of three said, “because healthcare workers don’t get enough credit for the things they do, especially when you work and go home to your family.”

Cristin Buentello said it’s not uncommon for her to pick up a dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts on her way to or from her job at Brookwood Hospital and Women’s Center.

The 12 glazed rings she picked up this week at the Hoover Krispy Kreme location were for her co-workers.

“It helps us all out and gives us a little treat,” said Buentello, a surgical assistant. “Any little thing is nice, like food, getting water. Everything’s helping us right now: a little pick-me-up.”

Starbucks is giving a free tall brewed coffee – hot or cold – to front-line responders through May 3. In addition, the Starbucks Foundation is donating $500,000 to support front-line responders.

The $500,000 comes in equal donations to Direct Relief to support the delivery of personal protective equipment and essential medical items, and to Operation Gratitude to deliver 50,000 care packages and handwritten letters to first responders and health care workers.

Similarly, companies and volunteers have rolled up their sleeves to help people who have been adversely affected by the pandemic, including children who might not otherwise be fed because their schools have closed for the school year.

Nourish Foods is among companies offering gifts for healthcare providers at UAB. Some community philanthropists are donating money to be used at area restaurants to provide food for health care workers.

UAB’s Food Services staff is organizing this project through its Meals For Heroes link.

Full Moon Bar-B-Que locations in several Alabama cities are providing meals to schoolchildren in need, first responders and healthcare workers. (file)

Full Moon Bar-B-Que established its Feed a Friend program, accepting nominations for families to receive a free meal. That program was to have ended this week but is being extended indefinitely until the shelter-in-place order is lifted.

The barbecue restaurant chain’s Tuscaloosa location gave 180 lunches to staffers at Druid City Hospital, while its Montgomery restaurant gave 500 lunches to schoolchildren through the Mercy House nonprofit. The company also gave 100 lunches to the Levite Jewish Community Center and served lunches at the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office.

“Serving our communities is always a top priority at Full Moon Bar-B-Que and we are dedicated to providing meals in this trying time,” co-owner Joe Maluff said in a prepared statement.Now more than ever, people need hope and we believe a warm meal can do just that. Full Moon Bar-B-Que aims to serve the communities surrounding each of our locations the best way we can throughout this pandemic.”

Last week, J&R Bar & Grill – formerly Peyton Place Restaurant – gave free lunches to first responders. On April 2, 1918 Catering gave free lunches to healthcare workers with ID at its location in Homewood.

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