High-risk health care workers at OHSU receive meals from Portland restaurants

A masked blonde woman in a black beanie hands bags of pasta meals from the back of a delivery van to a masked adult in scrubs, who is placing the bags on a white rolling cart.

Tara Caruy of Amalfis hands a bag of hot pasta meals to OHSU registered nurse Karl Tutsch on New Years Eve, part of an effort to support frontline health care workers at highest risk of burnout. (OHSU)

Oregon Health & Science University is shoring up some of its most stressed-out frontline health care workers with meals provided by Portland restaurants.

In recognition of health care workers at the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic, OHSU is providing the meals using $30,000 in funding provided through a relief grant provided by SAIF, an Oregon-based nonprofit insurance company.

The first meals were delivered Tuesday.

Additional meals will be delivered twice a day to cover both day shift and night shift workers in critical health care units on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays until late January. In total, the funding covers about 2,000 meals for the hospital units most impacted by the care of patients with COVID-19.

“This has been an incredibly hard year,” said Megan Furnari, M.D., a neonatal hospitalist who has also taken on a leadership role with OHSU’s COVID-19 Wellness Task Force. “These are the staff that are at the highest risk for burnout. We’re really trying to make sure they know we are there for them, as they’ve put their own lives second and patient care first.”

The meals will be purchased from five to 10 locally owned restaurants that have suffered deep economic losses because of the pandemic.

This spring, many of those same restaurants provided meals to hospital workers throughout the Portland area in appreciation for their efforts in treating the first wave of people hospitalized by the novel coronavirus.

“We recognize that back in March and April, the economic crisis wasn’t as severe as it is now,” Furnari said. “We wanted to make sure we purchased these meals from the same businesses that helped us in the beginning of the pandemic. In this way, we hope to help our city find its way through these very economically challenging times.”

Kiauna Floyd, the third-generation owner of Amalfi’s in Northeast Portland, has been working with the organization Frontline Foods to provide meals for frontline staff in Portland hospitals throughout the pandemic.

Amalfi’s has not offered indoor dining since March, mindful of the risk to employees and customers with the novel coronavirus widespread in the community. The restaurant has had to lay off three-quarters of its staff.

Floyd said that providing meals to frontline health care workers has provided a small lifeline of hope for the business that has been a northeast Portland institution for 62 years.

“Every little bit helps,” she said. “It’s been helpful to contribute to keeping the lights on and the doors open.”

Shannon Tivona, a Portland resident who previously directed the Portland chapter of Frontline Foods, is volunteering her time to coordinate with area restaurants to deliver meals to OHSU frontline staff.

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“I’m just deeply indebted and grateful for all they’re doing,” Tivona said.

Two masked females bring brown bags of pasta meals to a masked OHSU employee in scrubs, who is loading them onto a white wheeled cart

Michael Menner, left, and Tara Caruy of Amalfi’s deliver hot meals to OHSU frontline health care workers on Dec. 31, part of an effort to support frontline health care workers and also provide appreciation for locally owned restaurants impacted by the pandemic. Karl Tutsch, R.N., receives the meals outside Physicians Pavilion on OHSU Marquam Hill campus. (OHSU)

Floyd agreed, saying the restaurant is pleased to nourish frontline health care workers while looking forward to the day when Amalfi’s can throw open its doors to customers and employees alike.

“When all of this is said and done, we’re going to have a moment when we reflect back on this time,” she said. “I think it’s important that we feel good about the choices we made for our employees and for our community.

“We just want to do the right thing.”

The grant funding will provide meals for critical frontline health care providers through January, although Furnari said the Wellness Task Force is open extending meal delivery for stressed-out critical care staff with support of corporate or philanthropic donors.


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