Restaurants and Organizations Join Forces on Houston Food Donations — Updated

The Branch delivers a food order to help medical professionals

Southern Smoke Foundation logoJames Beard Award-winning chef Chris Shepherd launched Southern Smoke in 2015 to support his friend and former sommelier Antonio Gianola, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In 2017, Southern Smoke shifted its focus to provide assistance to people in the food and beverage industry affected by Hurricane Harvey. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, Southern Smoke’s Emergency Relief Fund was once again able to start helping immediately. So far, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $607,000 to 312 individuals in the food and beverage industry affected by the COVID-19 crisis — and still has thousands of requests to process. To help meet this great need, the Southern Smoke Foundation has hired more than 30 people—all furloughed or laid off from the food and beverage industry—to process applications in order to provide funds as quickly as possible.

Since 2015, Southern Smoke has distributed more than $2.2 million — both directly to people in need via the Emergency Relief Fund and to organizations that represent the needs of people in the hospitality industry.  Please visit this webpage to donate. If you’re a hospitality professional who needs help, visit this page to apply for assistance.

This message and article was made possible by Lauren Postler and her team at Solution Focused consulting agency. 

The COVID-19 situation is an unprecedented time that’s created undue hardship for Houston restaurants, medical professionals and charities. In response, Houstonians have banded together to fill needs and lessen the brunt of the impact. New organizations have appeared, and even though this isn’t the best of times, restaurant owners are donating food and labor, as well as recruiting volunteers, to feed professionals in the medical and hospitality industries.

Here are some examples of the efforts going on to feed those in need of support.

Feeding Hospitality Professionals

See the “Food & Essential Supplies” section of our Help for Houston Hospitality Workers Impacted by Coronavirus Crisis article for several resources.

Feeding Medical Professionals

Bravery Chef Hall, 409 Travis: Owner Shepard Ross says the various food stands have not only been contributing meals through the NextSeed Life Fund (described below) but also independently through Hospital Relief @Bravery. Meals for hospital staff can be purchased in increments of 25 or 50 at $10 each. “This allows us to make daily healthcare staff deliveries all over Houston to MD Anderson, Methodist, St. Luke’s, Memorial Hermann locations, Legacy Health Clinic and more,” said Ross.

bread man baking co
Bread Man Baking Co.’s Greek Village bread. Photo courtesy of Bread Man Baking Co.

Bread Man Baking Co.’s Pop-Ups: Tasos Kataounis’s popular bakery is hosting pop-ups at different locations from 10 a.m. until sold out. While loaves of bread cost $5 and pastries cost $3, frontline and hospitality workers affected by Covid-19 can get theirs free of charge. The current pop-up schedule is listed on Facebook.

#CommunityFirst Local Impact Meals – Houston: The concept is simple: health care organizations sign up for meal delivery, and restaurants offer meals at reduced prices for this effort. These discounted meals are paid for via donations and thus are provided for free to the medical community. Meal providers have included Phat Eatery in Katy, as well as Safina and The Naturalist Café, both located in the Intercontinental Houston Medical Center hotel. Added 4/14/20, 10:27 a.m.

Feed the Front LineSarah Watson, a special education teacher at Yes Prep Southeast, was influenced by similar volunteer groups in Louisiana to raise money through donations to purchase meals at restaurants such as Rudyard’s, Sixty Vines, The Breakfast Klub and Kenny & Ziggy’s. These are then delivered via volunteers to hospitals such as Houston Methodist, Memorial Hermann in the Texas Medical Center, Ben Taub Hospital, LBJ Hospital and Baytown Health Center. According to the website, over 14,000 meals have been donated to healthcare workers across the state, including in Houston. Donations to purchase more meals can be made online.

Give In Kind Meals for Houston Area Healthcare Workers:  At this website, donors can select a hospital and a time slot to provide staff meals from Houston area restaurants. Scroll down to select a hospital and look for time slots where meals have been requested. Be sure to read any instructions (such as how many vegetarian meals are needed). Dak & Bop and Uptown Sushi are just a few of the restaurants that have been selected to provide meals. (As of this writing, there are several unfilled meal slots for CHI St. Luke’s in Pasadena.)

Hopdoddy Burger Bar’s Pay It Forward: This program is available at all locations via online and curbside service. Anyone can buy a burger to be provided to a healthcare worker.

Houston Methodist Fundraiser: Dr. Patrick Reardon of this hospital started a Facebook fundraiser for feeding front line health care workers who treat Coronavirus patients. The fundraising page says that so far, the effort has helped feed “over 140 doctors, nurses, technicians, clerks and police officers who work in the high risk Coronavirus patient diagnosis and care areas.” Roegels Barbecue Co. is part of the effort and is collecting donations. Reardon says that those who wish to help can also purchase a gift card from the restaurant and name Houston Methodist as the recipient. Call Roegels Barbecue at (713) 977-8725 for more information.

NextSeed’s Give to Restaurants + Feed Medical Staff = Get Through This Together.

Next Seed’s Local Impact Food & Entrepreneurship (LIFE) Fund: NextSeed is best known as the crowdfunding entity that’s helped finance Houston restaurants such as B.B. Italia and Poitín. During this crisis, though, there’s a new focus. The company established the Local Impact Food & Entrepreneurship (LIFE) Fund, which purchases meals from locally owned restaurants which are then in turn used to feed local medical professionals and volunteers. Co-founder Abe Chu says that the meals are being bought from many different restaurants, not just ones that NextSeed helped fund. Any medical or healthcare facility that would like to receive meals can fill out a request form to get into the rotation.

Saturday’s Memorial Hermann ScrubGrub delivery from The Branch.

ScrubGrub Greater Houston & Galveston: Inspired by similar efforts in Louisiana, ScrubGrub Greater Houston & Galveston connects restaurants and hospital staff. Donors sponsor mealtimes and share the costs with the restaurant community. Local restaurants such as The Branch and the Abundant Harvest Food Truck have been serving up meals to from Houston to The Woodlands, and Dak & Bop on 18th Street is offering a special ScrubGrub bowl menu that can be ordered via email.

Tacos A Go Go: Customers can “Buy Tacos for a Hero” for just $5 as part of any online, phone or in-person order. Tacos A Go Go is matching every taco purchased and delivering meals to local nurses, doctors and first responders at hospitals and testing centers.

Feeding Anyone in Need

Common Bond’s 10K Baguette Challenge: The owners of Common Bond Bakery are selling “Community Baguettes”. For every one purchased, Common Bond delivers an extra to the Houston Food Bank. Tracey Fox King & Walters law firm, Forney Construction and Dee Dee Guggenheim Howes of Compass Real Estate helped launch this initiative. (This is also a good time to note that every time there is a crisis, demand for food from the Houston Food Bank always escalates immensely. The website states there urgent need for cash donations, which are accepted online.)

classic lasagna at Lasagna House
The classic beef lasagna at Lasagna House. Courtesy photo.

Lasagna House 1960: Owner Matt Vernon of this north Houston restaurant has been delivering meals to fire departments, nurses, first responders and students across Houston, Ponderosa and Spring. Last week the restaurant delivered meals to the staff of Whitmeyer’s Distilling Co., who have been very busy churning out desperately needed hand sanitizer.

Feeding the Elderly & Unemployed

Council Member Plummer’s Pop-Up Kitchen.

The Pop-Up Kitchen at Seaside Lounge, 702 West Dallas: Donation-driven and operated completely by volunteers, this pop-up kitchen aims to serve 100 free meals a day to unemployed Houstonians and seniors over age 65. The initiative is led by Letitia Plummer (who fills At-Large Position 4 on Houston City Council), Mario Azodinia, CEO of Capstone Houston Group, Laurie Robinson, founder and CEO of Disaster & Humanitarian Services, Inc., and Wendell Price of host venue Seaside Lounge.

The participating chefs are donating their time to create the meals, and have included such notables as Ana Beaven of Cuchara; Chris Williams of Lucille’s, Alphise Washington of Davis Street At Hermann Park and Rafi Nasr of Craft Pita. Between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., those who present proof of unemployment (such as a letter from the Texas Workforce Commission) or identification showing they’re over age 65 can drive up to the Seaside Lounge to claim a meal on a first-come, first-served basis. Social distancing and hygiene practices are to be in place for each step of the process. The program is scheduled to continue through Sunday, April 19. However, it may continue for some days afterward depending on need and whether sufficient donations are secured. Those donations can be made online.

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