Moveable Feast feeds thousands of overworked San Jose health care workers
Kaye Kosal,who owns the Lemongrass Lane food truck, delivers food to health care workers at Regional Medical Center as part of the Movable Feast initiative. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Hospital workers had a reason to smile as they pushed dollies into the parking lot in front of Regional Medical Center’s emergency room one recent afternoon.

They were picking up donated meals from Moveable Feast, a San Jose-based food truck catering company known for its specialty American, Filipino, Indian and BBQ dishes devoured by foodies. But now, the company has redirected its entire fleet of food truck vendors to feed health care workers, government staff and other essential workers amid the coronavirus crisis.

“All of our folks were out of work and we knew people were working super hard at the hospitals fighting this pandemic, so we devised this fundraiser,” Moveable Feast and Treatbot owner Ryan Sebastian said.

Financed through a GoFundMe campaign, each $10 donation provides a no-contact meal for a hospital health care worker, in addition to one ice cream scoop from Treatbot per each $10 donation, up to 1,000 scoops. After more than doubling a goal of raising $5,000, the campaign — called Feed the Frontline — raised $20,000.

“The staff is touched that people are thinking of them,” said Andra Davis, the ICU Director at Regional Medical Center. “We want to give the patients the best care we can and take care of our nurses as well.”

Sebastian called upon his food truck partners, I Love Cheesesteaks, Lemongrass Lane and Takoz Mod Mex, to join him in making the first delivery at Regional Medical Center late last week. They served 250 meals, valued at $2,500 on Thursday. including pints of tasty ice cream from Treatbot.

For future deliveries, Sebastian is focusing first on public hospitals and those in underserved areas before expanding to other hospitals. Starting Friday, Moveable Feast will be delivering late-night meals to health care workers at Valley Medical Center and O’Connor Hospital in San Jose and St. Louise Regional Hospital in Gilroy.

“This is really great,” he said, “but what we’re doing right now pales in comparison with the work going on behind the hospital’s walls.”

Nancy Bugwadia, director of nutritional services at Regional Medical Center, said it’s been a difficult time for frontline staff, but “seeing the love pour out from the community has just been amazing.”

The fundraiser also helps to keep the food trucks and Moveable Feast afloat amid the shelter-in-place orders that have shuttered businesses and forced Bay Area residents to stay home.

“If our food truck partners don’t do well, if they’re not in business in three months, we’re out of business,” Sebastian said. “We want to help these folks who are struggling with no work. They went from working 100 percent to 0 percent in 10 days.”

An idea takes root

After the shelter-in-place initiative went into effect, Sebastian closed his Treatbot location at San Pedro Square and began working from home.

Recently, Feda Oweis, owner of Beyond the Border food truck, told Sebastian about his GoFundMe campaign for San Francisco General Hospital and suggested he try something similar. Sebastian ran with it. Within five days, he found an interested hospital partner, created a fundraising strategy and put his plan into action.

He envisions having weekly drop-offs at nonprofits that help people in danger of losing their homes, like the YWCA, Sunnyvale Community Services, Health Trust and Sacred Heart Community Service.

Maily Duong, who owns I Love Cheesesteak, said she’s lost about 75 percent of her customers during the pandemic and she’s “absolutely afraid” of going out of business.

Duong said she’s more than happy to provide food to the health care professionals, while taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of customers and employees.

Despite their own fears of going out and risking their lives, the food truck owners said they feel an obligation to help first responders, nurses and other “heroes.”

“It’s almost like coming to a battlefield, and you’re here in the crossfire hoping you don’t catch anything,” said Kaye Kosal Len, owner of Lemongrass Lane.

And the good deed is not going unappreciated by Silicon Valley’s stressed out, overworked hospital workers.

“The staff are working hard and it’s a stressful time,” said Shannon Jerrom, Regional Medical Center’s director of therapy and rehabilitation. “So, when the community comes and does something like this for us, it really lifts our spirits. Everybody needs that love and it really makes a difference to us.”

To learn more about Moveable Feast’s food delivery services, including emergency catering for up to 10,000 workers per shift, call the company’s 24-hour hotline at (408) 800-6825.

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at mgabbert@comcast.net.

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