When the coronavirus started filling hospital beds and shutting down restaurants, Natalie Guo saw two problems: millions of abruptly unemployed restaurant workers and hungry health care professionals whose hospital cafeterias had closed down.
She brought them together with one elegant solution: Off Their Plate, a nonprofit that pays chefs and restaurant shift workers to provide boxed meals for health care staff.
“It’s not caviar. It’s not lobster. It’s something nutritious packed with love,” says Guo in the latest episode of the “We Roar” podcast, a series of bite-sized reflections on the coronavirus from Princetonians.
Guo, a 2012 Princeton alumna and current Harvard medical student, reached out to Boston-area restauranteurs. She pitched them her idea: serve simple, nourishing meals to hospital workers for $10 a meal — entirely funded by donations — and pay at least half of the money directly to the restaurant employees.
“Individual workers, particularly those that do not qualify for unemployment, are by far the most marginalized and most economically vulnerable right now,” says Guo. “My ask that over 50% of donations be sent to them directly was the basis of providing economic relief geared towards individuals over businesses.”
Today, Off Their Plate partners with 110 restaurants around the country — in Boston, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Seattle, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia — and has served over 200,000 meals to health care workers, while providing more than $1 million in economic relief to restaurant workers.