Edible Monterey Bay

Donating Meals for Those on the Front Lines

April 14. 2020 – Two groups in Santa Cruz are organizing meal deliveries for healthcare workers and others on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.

“It benefits the Mom & Pop restaurants and gives them a little boost while at the same time honoring our frontline heroes,” says Deborah Elston, one of the organizers of Santa Cruz Feeds Frontline Heroes. The other group, Covid-Meals made a delivery of 20 meals to Dominican Hospital today and is also motivated by the need to support local restaurants.

“It started as a family member’s birthday wish,” explains Covid-Meals founder Liz Picco. “We were already ordering take out meals almost every night to help our restaurants, but decided we needed to do more.”

While some local restaurants have shut down in response to the statewide coronavirus Shelter in Place orders, the vast majority have launched take out and delivery services as a way to stay afloat during the crisis.

“We need to help keep our restaurants alive. They are our meeting places, where we celebrate, and they anchor our cultural life in the community,” Picco says on the Covid-Meals website.

Inspired by a similar system in Oakland, Picco and some friends put together a website to manage the project. On the site, upcoming meal deliveries are posted and donors are urged to call the designated restaurants directly to order and pay for the selected number of meals, which generally cost about $12 each.

“It’s a grassroots approach. We’re not taking any money, it all goes straight to the restaurants,” she says.

Since launching two weeks ago Covid-Meals has delivered 275 meals to healthcare workers at Dominican Hospital, Watsonville Community Hospital Emergency Room and Salud Para La Gente. Participating restaurants include Vasili’s Greek Restaurant, Ella’s at the Airport, Charlie Hong Kong, Real Thai Kitchen and Kickin Chicken.

“It’s so exciting to deliver the meals and see the appreciation of the staff. It’s really great for the restaurants and it’s the right thing to do,” she says.

The same win-win approach inspired Bella Babot, executive director of the Santa Cruz Film Festival, to start Santa Cruz Feeds Frontline Heroes about the same time.

“I was trying to reach out to the festival’s restaurant partners and they were just devastated,” says Babot, who was inspired by the Meals of Gratitude program organized by Flea Street Cafe’s Jesse Ziff Cool to feed healthcare workers at Stanford Medical Center.

So far the Santa Cruz group has made 11 deliveries from Zoccoli, Tacos Moreno, Joe’s Subs, Mozaic and Mountain Mike’s Pizza to frontline workers at Dominican Hospital Emergency Room, AMR, the triage tents at Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Santa Cruz Police Department and Santa Cruz Sheriff’s Department.

Donations are requested to buy the meals and the Film Festival has joined forces with the non-profit Santa Cruz Neighbors organization to handle the money and logistics.

“We can’t keep everyone afloat, but hope it can do a little bit of good for our culinary partners,” says Badot, who put on protective gear to make a delivery of 50 burritos to the Sheriff’s Office yesterday.

“It’s so heartwarming! It was only burritos, but that made them so happy,” she says. “They said they were smiling behind their masks and so was I for the rest of the day.”

To donate please contact:


Santa Cruz Feeds Frontline Heroes

About the author

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Deborah Luhrman is publisher and editor of Edible Monterey Bay. A lifelong journalist, she has reported from around the globe, but now prefers covering our flourishing local food scene and growing her own vegetables in the Santa Cruz Mountains.