Stepping Up: Frontline Foods RI looks to help restaurants, feed health care workers

THE RHODE Island chapter of Frontline Foods donated 100 meals to health care workers at Hasboro Children's and Rhode Island hospitals on May 20./ COURTESY OF BILL MURPHY OF LIFESPAN

PROVIDENCE – Restaurant owner Perry Raso was already donating thousands of free meals through his restaurant Matunuck Oyster Bar in South Kingstown. His most recent delivery, though, he didn’t have to pay for himself. 

In partnership with the newly formed Rhode Island chapter of Frontline Foods, Raso was able to cook and deliver 100 different meals to frontline workers at Hasbro Children’s and Rhode Island hospitals, funded by community donations and sponsored by actress and Central Falls native Viola Davis.  

Frontline Foods, a new organization with 57 city chapters across the U.S.pays local restaurants though tax-deductible donations to prepare meals for frontline workers. Since Rhode Island’s stay-at-home advisory began, a number of restaurants throughout the state have been closed, creating a major hardship with a revenue stream that was little to none. Frontline Foods looked to both assist restaurants while feeding health care workers treating those infected with the novel coronavirus.  

“One order doesn’t have a big impact on the bottom line. But it is definitely a big benefit,” said Raso. Getting an extra 100 lunches that are paid for and get new people to try our food goes a long way.” 

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Rhode Island is one of Frontline Foods’ newest chapters, initiated by a team at Falvey Insurance Group in North Kingstown. While the employees at Falvey have donated to various relief efforts, they donated a collective $4,000 to the Frontline’s newest chapter. 

Their next donation will bring 20 meals to South County Hospital in South Kingstown from Wickford on the Water in North Kingstown while they are in talks with Kent Hospital in Warwick for another potential donation. 

RESTAURANT OWNER Perry Raso of Matunuck Oyster Bar hands out meals to frontline workers. / COURTESY OF BILL MURPHY OF LIFESPAN

So far, more than $7,000 has been donated to the Rhode Island chapter as they look further their efforts by driving awareness to raise funds. 

“Our state is so small, but we are looking to go back to hospitals multiple times,” said Megan Bell, who helped start the Rhode Island chapter of Frontline Foods and is the director of marketing at Falvey Insurance Group. We are looking to say that we have done double the amount of meals that we’ve done now in a month.” 

Frontline Foods was started when a San Francisco nurse was asked by her friends what they could do to help her while she was treating COVID-19 patients. She had simply replied with “pizza,” and the group brainstormed how they could both help support local restaurants while also feeding medical professionals. 

More than 400,000 meals have been served to 700 different frontline teams, supporting 1,000 restaurants across Frontline Foods’ chapters, according to the organizations’s website. 

For Bell and her partner Amanda Langlais, the assistant marketing manager at Falvey and has spearheaded much of Frontline Foods’ Rhode Island chapter so far, their next step is to look for more like-minded companies with a strong sense of public service to partner with for fundraising.  

For Raso, who looks to help give more meals to frontline workers through the movement, it’s less about revenue and more about giving back.  

“It’s more than the income, it drives the other stuff that is even more valuable,” said Raso.  

Tax-deductible donations can be made on World Central Kitchen’s website and restaurants looking to be considered for a future sponsored meal can sign up to participate on the chapter’s form 

Alexa Gagosz is a PBN staff writer. Contact her at Gagosz@PBN.com.

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