On Friday April 3, local Italian restaurant Tabella launched Tabella’s Healthcare Heroes program, which is aimed at providing meals to those working in hospitals and clinics during the coronavirus pandemic.
Robert St. John, the owner of Tabella and other restaurants in Hattiesburg, said he launched the program after noticing how healthcare workers were having to work overtime in dangerous conditions.
“We received numerous calls from people asking if there was any way our businesses could help out, so we started making the meals and supplying them to the hospitals,” St. John said.
When a customer calls Tabella, people can place an order for a meal to a doctor or other medical professional. Once the orders are placed, they are delivered to the hospitals and doled out amongst the different sectors.
“Everyone is at home while these guys are on the frontlines fighting the virus. There are two types of heroes at work, the first are the ones out in the field, and the other type is the people who call and order meals for them to have,” St. John said.
Restaurants in cities around America have initiated similar programs. They all carry the same goal: support healthcare workers.
While Tabella works to provide meals to hospital employees, local charity group Extra Table is working to ensure soup kitchens and food pantries don’t run out of supplies. With the unemployment rate up at 14.9%, many are resorting to charity organizations for support.
“The purpose of the organization is to provide food and other goods to food pantries and soup kitchens, but because of the epidemic we have expanded our operations. We are now taking food donations from restaurants because since they’re closed, they aren’t able to use the ingredients in their storage,” Martha Allen, vice president of Extra Table, said.
Allen said the biggest challenge the organization is facing is ensuring all of their employees are safe.
“We want to ensure everything delivered is in good condition, but we are also making sure our volunteer workers are safe and healthy,” she said.
Programs like Tabella’s Healthcare Heroes and Extra Table give people an incentive to help out one another during the epidemic. With many local businesses and restaurants closed around Hattiesburg, supporting medical workers and everyday citizens gives a new reason for those to keep working.
“People who live paycheck to paycheck are finding it harder than ever to do things like buy groceries. Because of this, charity organizations are starting to face supply shortages, but this is why groups like Extra Table are present to find and supply what they need,” Allen said.
So far, Tabella’s Healthcare Heroes has raised nearly $13,000 and will continue to support hospital workers.