HILLSBOROUGH, NJ - Andrew Pantano of Culinary Creations has been busy boxing up meals this week for area hospital emergency rooms, critical care, and EMS units.
His first delivery was Tuesday night to the emergency room crew at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital/New Brunswick. By the time he returned to Hillsborough he had a note from the hospital's Associate Chief of Operations thanking him and telling him how happy the staff was with the food. Other deliveries followed at RWJUH/Somerset in Somerville.
Pantano has catered to hospital units before but the difference now is that the community has come forward looking for ways to help front-line hospital workers during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and help local businesses at the same time.
“Beginning a couple of weeks ago, I saw a lot of local restaurants advertising take-out and felt that many members of the community would be happy to spend that money in support of a medical worker at this time,” said Hillsborough resident Meryl Bisberg. “We were also starting to hear stories of how busy the ER and ICU units were, how a lot of shifts were working double-time and medical staff hardly had time to un-suit, let alone eat.
Worst of all, nurses and other staff are exhausted from being the only emotional support for patients, some of whom are dying, because family cannot come to the hospital,” Brisberg added.
Knowing that COVID-19 cases were expected to reach peak somewhere between April 8 to April 15th, Bisberg started finding contacts in the hospitals to find out the size of the ER or ICU units, and the best dates and times for meal drop-off.
She coordinated with Pantano, who immediately put out the word for donations over social media, waived delivery and other fees, and set about preparations.
For $10, a medical worker in the unit receives a boxed gourmet lunch, side salad, brownie, and something to drink. The hospitals also have the option to offer hot meals for staff to warm on site or bring home if they choose. If they don’t have time to finish their meal while they are there, they can easily take it home where they have more time.
Pantano includes the names of all the donors along with a menu and a note of thanks to the medical staff.
“Community support has been very strong”, Pantano said. “Each hospital has many units that are helping during this time and there is a need to continue to feed as many of them and as often as possible, so we encourage everyone to continue to donate. Just $10 offers a meal.
"While we are continuing to raise funds, we will continue to support our frontline health workers at area hospitals unit by unit. This is an extremely stressful time for them, and a good meal is something I know how to provide. With your support, we are helping them help us through this pandemic,” he added.
Culinary Creations can be found on culinarycreationsnj on Facebook, culinary creations on Instagram, or www.culinarycreations.com. To make an online donation through their Frontline Healthcare Workers fund directly through Square, go to https://checkout.square.site/pay/8ab21f7942d04c77a292c96577f49471.
Note also that proceeds from any “Meal Deals” that you order for your family will also go to supporting the Frontline Healthcare Workers meal delivery.