By Emily Kemme
It’s said that feeding a loved one can earn you their heart. In that work relationships rise to the top of life’s most important connections, what’s to say that adage doesn’t also ring true for employees? The people behind UCHealth’s Feeding the Front Lines project seem to think so.
According to Kelly Tracer, UCHealth Media Relations Specialist, the healthcare system “is providing free meals and snacks every day for many of our health care heroes across the state. This effort launched in the fall, when the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations started to rise and the pressure on our health care teams increased.”
The meals are intended for those working long, hard days and nights in the hopes the system’s employees will have one less thing to worry about. Meals are served to staff at UCHealth’s Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Greeley Hospital and Longs Peak Hospital in Longmont. Clinics at Harmony Campus and Mountain Crest Behavioral Health Center, both in Fort Collins, are also part of the effort. By the end of December, more than 95,000 meals were provided in northern Colorado; more than 395,000 meals were provided throughout the UCHealth system. The program has continued into 2021.
The program, Feeding the Front Lines, was the follow-up to a springtime effort to bolster UCHealth’s care teams during the pandemic, explained Erica Siemers, Regional Executive Director of the UCHealth Northern Colorado Foundation & Longs Peak Hospital Foundation. The spring effort centered on community donations to the hospital foundation and northern Colorado restaurants. Volunteer drivers transported restaurant meals to UCHealth hospitals whose hospitality teams delivered hot meals to employees several times daily.
“When the surge reared its head again this fall, our hospitality team said handling the volume of food deliveries was tough to deal with. We know how important it was to each employee to whom that generosity touched. UCH said, ‘let’s feed our employees while they’re working, it’ll help ease the work flow, and take the burden off those who work back to back shifts.’”Erica Siemers, Regional Executive Director
Tracer said the current effort also sprinkled approximately 3,500 UCHealth health care workers with random acts of kindness during the holiday season — in the form of boxes of gourmet cookies made possible by a very generous donor and the wonderful people at Fiona’s Bakery & Deli.
“They wanted to show all of our health care workers that they are loved and appreciated and make sure they are feeling like the heroes they are,” she said. Cookie love was delivered to workers in UCHealth hospitals, urgent care clinics, COVID-19 specimen collection sites, and ambulance and emergency departments.
In a third prong of the program, by using a food voucher system developed by Siemers and Development Manager Shannon Mosness, the project identified over 1,000 front line workers to receive restaurant vouchers. The program was made possible through generous monetary donations through UCH’s COVID-19 community response.
Mosness reached out to restaurant groups in Fort Collins, Loveland, and Greeley, eventually partnering with Hot Corner Concepts, Roma Restaurant, Nordy’s Bar-B-Que and Grill, Coyote’s Southwestern Grill, Palomino Mexican Restaurant, Blue Agave Grill, and Vatos Tacos + Tequila, assuring there would be participating restaurants in towns close to where employees live. Employees received a $25 voucher for anything on participating restaurants’ menus, excluding alcohol.
“The restaurant partners were all very excited to be involved and engaged with the healthcare organization and community,” Mosness said.
Roughly $25,000 in vouchers has been distributed for use. The program was made possible through private donations.
The reaction to all this outpouring of tasty love? Mosness said the front line has been very positive. “The reaction is emotional.”
If you would like to help support Feeding the Front Lines, visit https://www.uchealthnocofoundation.org/covid-19/. Funds are also being used to support research, equipment and other staff support needs related to the pandemic.