A new program is providing free meals for first responders who are operating COVID-19 testing sites across King County.
The three testing sites — in Seattle, Shoreline, and Covington — are dedicated to testing the area’s first responders as required by their agencies.
The first responder-designated sites come after limited access to testing hindered emergency medical services’ ability to serve their communities safely, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan said in a prepared statement on March 19.
Gratitude Meals, a donation-funded initiative by the Medic One Foundation, are hearty lunches being given to the first responders staffing the COVID-19 testing sites as they work to test their colleagues.
“It provides relief from the stress of dealing with the virus,” foundation executive director Jan Sprake said. “It lets them worry about more important things at the time instead of having to worry about food.”
Gratitude Meals began after staff at the foundation identified the need to support the workers staffing the sites, a necessary task to ensure efficient operations, Sprake said. Providing meals guarantees workers are fed and nourished and removes the need to pre-pack their food or find a meal nearby.
More than 500 meals are scheduled to be delivered by the end of April.
The Medic One Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Seattle and Bellevue, supports the region’s first response emergency medical system through fundraising, training and researching new methods of out-of-hospital patient care.
While the Gratitude Meals is feeding first responders at COVID-19 testing sites, local restaurants and caterers are benefiting too.
Lisa Dupar, a Redmond chef and business owner, is one of the people partnering with the Medic One Foundation to provide meals.
Dupar owns and operates Redmond-based Pomegranate Bistro and Lisa Dupar Catering, both of which she said are being financially impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak and Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
“It’s been pretty devastating,” Dupar said. “The industry — the whole event industry, I should say — just got the rug pulled out from under their feet.”
She said she is staying positive, choosing to focus on creative solutions to continue to serve customers while also partnering with local support efforts such as the Gratitude Meals program.
The Medic One Foundation is also partnering with Gourmondo, a Seattle caterer and cafe company, to provide boxed lunches for the first responder tester staff.
Planning meals means more than merely picking food. Dupar’s staff must carefully plan meals that can be individually packaged, consumed without an oven or microwave and last for a set amount of time after delivery. Her team has found hearty entree salad and sandwich combinations to be the most effective, with each boxed lunch totaling about $15, she said.
Once they are ready, the meals are delivered to staff at the three COVID-19 testing sites. Nurses with the Puget Sound Fire CARES program initially staffed the sites, but now other first responder personnel are taking on the duty, Capt. Joe Root, public information officer for Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority, said.
Some of the Gratitude Meals donors have included notes to accompany their meal purchase, Sprake said.
“Thank you for tirelessly and selflessly working every day to keep all of us safe,” reads one of the messages.
Dupar has continued to see generosity expressed in a multitude of ways. The support comes from long-time customers who continue to support her business through take-out, bags of food assembled for Seattle school-age children, and the donors who have supported programs like Gratitude Meals.
“There’s a lot of cool stuff set up helping a lot of people out there,” Dupar said. “People are really, really being very generous.”
Hannah Sheil is a journalism student currently enrolled in the University of Washington’s News Laboratory.