On the morning of Friday, Dec. 11, more than 800 breakfast meals awaited hospital staff at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center as they arrived for their day shifts or departed their evening shifts. Provided by The Toasted Yolk Café The Woodlands, the meals wrapped up the latest round of Memorial Hermann Foundation’s “Feeding the Frontlines” campaign, which works with local restaurants to support healthcare workers during the pandemic. Aside from being a welcomed surprise at the close of the campus’ Spirit Week, the breakfasts also helped sustain a workforce facing a new increase in COVID-19 cases.
“This campaign is part of our system’s resiliency efforts and overall mission to support frontline workers during this especially challenging year,” said Kim Koehn, senior director of major gifts for Memorial Hermann Foundation. “Although it’s only one branch of our efforts, its value to our workforce has been tremendous.”
Memorial Hermann Foundation’s “Feeding the Frontlines” campaign began in the spring and has been an ongoing initiative encouraging community support from both individuals and larger organizations to help Memorial Hermann purchase meals for frontline teams across the system. Through donations both large and small, the Foundation works with leadership teams at each campus to select a local restaurant to provide the meals.
“We wait until we’ve collected enough funds so that we can serve all campuses during each round of the campaign, and we tailor the restaurants to the campus,” said Koehn. “In addition to creating a more meaningful experience, this also allows us to support restaurants that may be struggling or those that have been generous to our staff in the past.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, the campaign—originally dubbed “Feeding Frontline Families”—started out with a call for donations from the community with a goal of funding 5,000 family meals to be distributed to Memorial Hermann healthcare workers on the frontlines.
“The idea was that while healthcare workers take care of us and our families, we want to help take care of them,” said Jessica Keener, manager of donor engagement and special events for Memorial Hermann Foundation, who has facilitated this effort in partnership with the campuses. “With the extra stress and long shifts, many didn’t have the time to gather groceries or meals for their own families.”
The meals were then purchased at local restaurants using the funds raised and then delivered free of charge to the employees. The initiative also helped provide business to restaurants during their mandated closure in the spring. In total, 4,600 family meals—which equaled 18,580 individual meals—were delivered to frontline workers and their families between April and June of this year.
Beginning in July, the Foundation shifted to providing individual meals specifically to frontline workers, allowing them to feed more Memorial Hermann employees. As of Friday, the campaign has delivered nearly 50,000 total meals across 15 campuses through partnerships with 33 restaurants and caterers. Now, as COVID-19 numbers are rising again, they plan to do another round of fundraising for the campaign.
“The feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly positive,” said Keener. “It may seem like just a meal, but it means so much to our workforce that people have taken the time to say thank you in this tangible way.”
Donations for Memorial Hermann’s “Feeding the Frontlines” campaign can be made at MemorialHermann.org/heromeals