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SFU students feed healthcare heroes and boost the local economy, one meal at a time

May 21, 2020
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By Tessa Perkins Deneault

How would you feel if you came out of quarantine ready to finally enjoy a meal at your favourite restaurant, only to find that it has closed down? With up to 15 per cent of B.C. restaurants in danger of going out of business, according to the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, this could soon be a reality.

To address the financial hardships facing local restaurants while also supporting our healthcare heroes, four students from SFU and UBC have created Feeding Our Frontlines, an online platform where individuals can easily donate a meal from their favourite local restaurant to a worker at a local hospital or long-term care home.

Since the first delivery of 25 meals from Sal Y Limon on May 8 to workers at Lions Manor, a long-term care home in North Vancouver, Feeding Our Frontlines has raised more than $4,000 that will buy over 400 meals for healthcare workers. One hundred per cent of the funds raised go directly to the restaurants.

“We wanted to do something that would stimulate the economy while also supporting healthcare workers during this difficult time,” says Zoey Li, a student at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology and the Beedie School of Business.

“Many restaurants have been giving back and showing compassion for healthcare workers, and we wanted to help them.”

Li and her team have partnered with more than 40 restaurants in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal and have arranged for many major health authorities to receive the meals, including B.C. Children’s Hospital, B.C. Women’s Hospital, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Fraser Health.

“Both the restaurant owners and healthcare workers are so excited to see us. It’s really heartwarming,” says Li.

It took the team only two weeks to launch its website, designed by Li and developed by SFU computing science student Jeffrey Leung.

“It’s something we’re really passionate about and we’ve all been working on it full-time,” says Li. “If you really enjoy something, you’ll make time for it.”

Through both her business and her interactive arts and technology classes, Li has gained the skills she needed to make this initiative a success.

“I’ve had a lot of academic preparation for this type of project,” she says. “It’s been a great way to put into practice what I’ve learned.”

Li says their goal is to expand the number of restaurants in the four cities where they have existing partnerships while also broadening the types of frontline workers whom they feed — for example, first responders and transportation operators.

By the end of May, says Li, the team hopes to raise $10,000 and deliver approximately 1,000 meals. Those who aren’t in a position to donate but want to get involved can sign up to volunteer with Feeding Our Frontlines. The team is currently looking for help with translation, deliveries and community outreach.

“Our mission is to help local restaurants emerge from this crisis triumphant and to support our frontline workers at the same time.”