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Donors pitch in with meals for Rochester hospital workers

Multiple times a day, members of the food and nutrition staff at the University of Rochester Medical Center arrive at the patient discharge area to pick up donations of food from the community. 

If the food comes pre-packed in individual portions, the staff will take it to varying units on a rotating basis. If it comes in bulk, like sheet pizzas, the staff portions it out onto plates and wraps them in foil. 

 From surgeons to floor sweepers, the hospital staffers working during this COVID-19 pandemic are getting treated to takeout donated by a grateful community. Donations have ranged from breakfast sandwiches to box lunches to midnight snacks.

Food service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center portion out a pizza donation from Mark's Pizzeria. Photo supplied.

Food service workers at University of Rochester Medical Center portion out a pizza donation from Mark’s Pizzeria. Photo supplied.

“The generosity and the desire to help has been honestly overwhelming in a good way. We’ve had hundreds of people reach out and say they want to donate and how can they help,” said Jennifer Glen, director of food and nutrition services at the medical center. The same thing is happening at other local hospitals. 

Glen said if a donor wants the food to go to a particular unit, she’ll honor that request. If there’s no special designation, she shares the food unit-by-unit to make sure everyone gets a share of the community’s generosity.  

On Saturday and again on Wednesday, Northside Inn in East Rochester is planning to deliver several hundred meals of roast chicken, baked ziti, rice pilaf and salad to URMC. 

“It’s a tough time for everybody, but those are the people who keep us healthy every day. Whatever we can do, we’re more than happy to do,” said Don Verni, co-owner of the Northside Inn.

The sentiment is shared. Both Mark’s Pizzeria and Salvatore’s have contributed hundreds of servings of pizza. Browncroft Community Church raised $13,000 to pay for meals prepared by local food-related businesses to donate to the health care workers. 

One woman, Michelle Yaeger, and her sister-in-law, calling themselves “Feed the Front Lines” have been collecting donations of wrapped snacks and beverages people leave outside for them, and then donating them en masse to the hospital. Glen said the most recent shipment of those items allowed her to create 15 gift baskets, each containing dozens of treats, to send to different units at the hospital. 

The pair get around—Unity Hospital has a photo of them dropping off snacks there, too. 

The list of donations URMC is keeping includes Mexican from Moe’s, pastries from the Village Bakery, cookies from several bakeries, doughnuts from Ridge Donuts, ice cream from Hershey’s and more than 5,000 hot dogs from Zweigles. No word on whether they were red hots or white hots. 

Unity Hospital’s list of donors includes the Girl Scouts, Chick-fil-A, various churches and individuals, and restaurants. Rochester General has many of the same donors, along with its volunteer group ordering from Penfield Country Club, additional pizzas from Mozzeroni’s, 2 Ton Tony’s and Corderos, subs from DiBella’s and many others.

Food service for workers at URMC continues to be offered in the cafeterias, Glen said, but as pre-packaged selections and with other limitations. The salad bar has been shut down, for instance, to avoid cross-contamination by workers. 

“Our food is pretty good but right now it’s just not really that exciting,” Glen said. And many workers are not able to leave their units to take a real lunch break, so they appreciate the food delivered to their departments. Much of it is comfort food. 

“It’s so nice to see the community come together and help each other,” Glen said. 

dcarter@bridgetowermedia.com/ (585) 7=363-7275.

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