Healthcare workers on the front lines are working long, hard hours amid the Coronavirus pandemic – many pulling extra shifts without even stopping to eat. In order to show appreciation and support, many local restaurants in Seattle, including Ba Bar Kitchen, Nue Seattle, District One Saigon, Tamarind Tree, etc., generously decided to donate food for healthcare workers.
One of the first Vietnamese restaurants in Seattle that started donating free meals for the healthcare workers was Nue Seattle, located on Capitol Hill. The first donation was delivered on March 28th. When asked why she started, Uyen Nguyen, co-owner of Nue Seattle said that “people often think that the frontline workers are just doctors, nurses, and polices; however, I think that the frontline workers are those people who work in the sanitation department as well. Therefore, I wanted to deliver free meals not only to the people like doctors and nurses who work directly with patients but also the sanitation workers who keep everything cleaned up to prevent the spread of the virus within the healthcare facility. I think that their job is one of the hardest and most important jobs but they don’t get enough recognition they deserve.”
While the pandemic continues, there have been many protests in the Seattle area as support for the Black Lives Matter movement grows. Nue Seattle was fortunate not to get looted. However, the BLM protests made an impact on Nue Seattle and other restaurants in the area due to the curfew; most restaurants had to close by 3 o’clock so their staff could get home safely.
Uyen Nguyen said “ My background is in biomedical science and I am a scientist at heart. I think that this pandemic is going to last for a while, unfortunately. However, as long as the frontline people still need help, then I will continue to help as much as I can.”
The number of free meals that they have delivered is updated on their website every day. So far, they have donated more than 2000 meals and the public can help by donating directly on https://www.nueplanet.org/, through Venmo, or email Uyen Nguyen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ba Bar Kitchen is another Vietnamese restaurant that partnered with Seattle Science Foundation to give free meals to healthcare workers. In an interview with Seattle Science Foundation about their participation in the 100 Meals a Day donation, Eric Banh, co-owner of Bar Kitchen and Monsoon restaurants shared that, “during this difficult time, I would say frightening time, it affects all of us; at least most of us in this restaurant business. Here we are doing only twenty percent of what we used to do. At least now, we have a little bit left, so might as well help the people who are part of our industry, and part of our neighbors. So we thought let’s do a five-dollar-meal for these folks, whether they are employed or got laid off, every day. Then, when I talked to family members and business associates, they said ‘How about hospital staff?’”
Teresa Nguyen said, “Eric and I met two surgeons from Seattle Science Foundation, Dr. Rod Oskouian and Dr. Jen Chapman through our restaurants and became friends over the years. Eric asked Seattle Science Foundation to be our partner to give back to the community and feed workers on the frontline so the donation is tax deductible. Seattle Science Foundation loved the idea and accepted.”
“We delivered 5,700 meals by the beginning of June. It’s a very gratifying and rewarding to receive notes from the hospital that they love our food and appreciate the little note we write on each box. It’s a way for us to give back to the community, to thank our patrons for supporting us for the last 10 years and for us to say how grateful we are to those who work tirelessly fighting this Covid-19 pandemic and finding the cure.”
Ba Bar Kitchen raised over $50,000 to deliver 100 meals for ninety days.
It’s still a tough go for the restaurant. “We used to have sixty seats in our restaurant, but at this point, we are allowed to open with twenty-five percent of the capacity, so it is about 17 customers.”
District One Restaurant is located in Redmond, near the Microsoft campus. Most of Microsoft’s employees started working from home due to the pandemic which killed business at District One. So District One Saigon has turned to feeding healthcare workers and so far has donated over 2000 meals. The restaurant recently started a partnership with Edouardo Jordan, owner of FareStart to provide more free meals not only to the frontline workers but to people that are homeless, families, students, and those who are coming out of incarceration. Numbers of the donated meals are updated on social media so that people can contribute.