Five days into the COVID-19 quarantine in New York City, Anna Azvolinsky *09 was decluttering a closet in her family’s apartment when she uncovered a small supply of forgotten N95 masks that were given to her years ago during a flu outbreak. Knowing that the masks were critical for those on the frontline, she asked friends for advice and learned that Mt. Sinai hospital had the greatest need.
She took the masks to the Mt. Sinai Emergency Room, where she asked the staff, “What else can we do?” What she heard surprised her. After PPE, the greatest need, “is that hospital staff don’t have time to think about meals,” says Azvolinsky, a science journalist who graduated from Princeton with a doctoral degree in molecular biology.
She didn’t waste any time. That same day, she and her husband, Joel Weingarten, and their business partner, Ryall Carrol, created Meals4Heroes, a 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit offshoot of Weingarten’s and Carrol’s nonprofit, Doing4Others.
Meals4Heroes solicits donations and connects restaurants with healthcare workers, buying and delivering meals to feed large groups, such as an entire ER or ICU shift at a hospital. The healthy meals are all purchased from local restaurants near the hospitals. Currently, the organization works with 16 local restaurants that create custom meals for 40 to 200 people at a time.
The program is gathering momentum and helping feed more heroes on the front lines each week. In their first week in late March, Meals4Heroes sent 790 meals to four hospitals. In its second week the organization sent 2,865 meals to five hospital. From April 13 to 17, 5,600 meals will have been sent to 10 hospitals.
“Since we started, every day has been busy and fulfilling, connecting with local restaurants, healthcare workers and our donors, addressing this acute need,” says Azvolinksy.