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Come aboard the meal train

Emily Lytle * Delaware
elytle@doverpost.com
Dover Post

For hospital staff working 12-hour shifts, it can be hard to find time to go to the cafeteria or sit down for a meal. Donations of water bottles or granola bars can make a big difference and protect workers from burnout, said Carrie Hart, Bayhealth volunteer services manager.

“It’s really invaluable for those staff that are putting in 12-hour shifts,” she said. “I can’t imagine what’s going on, on some of the floors. They’re really giving their hearts and souls.”

After hearing from many community members who wanted to donate food, Bayhealth created a campaign on the website Meal Train. This allows people to sign up for specific meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks or bottled water) and drop-off times, so the hospital can better manage the donations and distribute them among departments.

Without an organized effort, some departments were inundated with donations and others were left out. “This is a great way to recognize departments of all sizes because we’re all a part of this,” Hart said.

To keep staff safe, Bayhealth asks that all food comes from licensed restaurants or grocery stores, and individually packaged meals are preferred. They request 30 meals per shift, but any donation is accepted.

“We’re so incredibly grateful and appreciative of the kindness and support shown from the community,” Hart said. “It’s so humbling..[and] we just can’t thank people enough.”

For some restaurants, the meal train has given them a way to stay in business while supporting healthcare workers.

Due to the pandemic, La Baguette in downtown Dover was forced to lay off 15 employees. Owners Chef Ludovic Bezy and Anita Wheeler-Bezy tried to stay open for two days a week, but decided to temporarily close April 4.

“We were doing the job of 10 people, just the two of us,” Wheeler-Bezy said. “We got tired after two weeks, and thought, ‘We’re going to catch this virus because our immune system is too low.’”

That’s when George Dobbins, owner of CrossFit Dover, asked La Baguette if they wanted to team up for a meal train.

To cover costs, he created a Facebook fundraiser and encouraged the community to donate by offering a free virtual workout. In the end, they raised enough to provide 80 meals twice a week for the next few weeks.

“Just the heart of my gym community, we thrive in situations like this,” he said. “If there’s an opportunity to help, we certainly extend ourselves to help the best that we can.”

Chef Ludovic Bezy and Anita Wheeler-Bezy donate their time to prepare the meals, and Dobbins delivers them to Bayhealth in Dover. To avoid coming into the hospital, donors bring the food to the main entrance, call the front desk, and a staff member picks them up.

Meal Train, beginning more than 10 years ago, was originally designed to help communities bring meals to people when they have a new baby or are recovering from surgery. Now, in reaction to the virus, more than 1,000 hospitals across the country have used it to support their staff, Meal Train co-founder Michael Larame said.

“It is human nature to want to provide support for those who are going through a difficult time, or in the case of frontline employees, [keeping] us safe,” Larame said. The site has also seen a lot more people partnering with restaurants to help deliver meals while limiting contact, he said.

For more, visit mealtrain.com/essential.

Donate to Bayhealth

  • Sign up for a meal delivery: https://www.mealtrain.com/trains/z1ered
  • Donate a restaurant gift card. Put the gift card in a sealed envelope with the donor’s name and home address written on the outside. Leave it in the drop box just inside the door of the Bayhealth Foundation office, 567 S. Governors Ave., Dover.
  • Donate money: Visit BayhealthFoundation.org/Donate or call 302-744-7015.