Feeding the Frontlines by Supporting Local Business

The heroes on the frontlines of the global health crisis are overworked and underfed, while local restaurants are searching for ways to survive during stay-at-home orders.

Leave it to the Babson community to help address both problems.

A number of alumni and other community members have responded to the pandemic by raising money and facilitating food deliveries to help feed doctors and nurses at hospitals. The efforts not only have helped sustain healthcare workers during marathon shifts, but they also have helped sustain local businesses in need of customers.

“In many ways,” said Tina Xiao ’17, co-founder of the Feed Your Hospital Initiative, “food is a form of love.”

Babson Believers

Xiao and Lena Wu ’16, MS’16 co-founded Feed Your Hospital in New York City on March 21 with a unique twist.

“One thing that differentiates Feed Your Hospital is that we specifically support Asian restaurants,” Xiao said. “A lot of these Asian restaurants are mom-and-pop shops; a lot of them don’t have websites or social media.”

Many of the restaurants—such as TabeTomo, a Japanese dipping noodle restaurant in the East Village, co-owned by Chia Pan ’14—struggled with how to pivot during the pandemic, relying only on takeout orders.

As part of the Feed Your Hospital Initiative, TabeTome—a restaurant co-owned by Chia Pan ’14—has delivered more than 1,800 meals to New York hospitals.

So, Xiao and Wu stepped in to help their friend and other businesses. While juggling demanding full-time jobs remotely, the dynamic duo began contacting hospitals and restaurants and raising money, and even helped create some menu items suitable for safe hospital delivery.

The initiative has raised nearly $100,000, including $25,000 raised by Babson alumni, and soon will have delivered 6,000 meals to 40 hospitals nationally. TabeTomo alone will have delivered 1,810 meals to 16 hospitals, far surpassing its original fundraising goal of $10,000.

Although New York City has been a hot spot with an increasing demand for meals, Feed Your Hospital has quickly expanded to 10 additional areas: Greater Boston; Greater Philadelphia; Greater Washington, D.C.; Houston, Texas; Austin, Texas; North Texas; Northern California; Southern California; Westchester, N.Y.; and Connecticut.

“This is as much of a Babson community effort as it could possibly be.”

Tina Xiao ’17, co-founder of the Feed Your Hospital Initiative

In order to scale their operation, Wu and Xiao—both former presidents of the Student Government Association—tapped into their Babson network. So far, they’ve enlisted a half-dozen other alumni, including Pan; Amy Hsiao ’16, co-owner of Kitsby, another restaurant fundraising partner; Yerim Kim ’16, New York City chapter initiative lead; Irene Laochaisri ’17, co-founder of InsightPact, which helped train volunteers nationally; Josh Boutin ’17, national coordinator; and Maya Gupta ’21, Greater Boston chapter hospital lead.

“This is as much of a Babson community effort as it could possibly be,” Xiao said.

‘A Good Sense of Purpose’

It was late on a Saturday night when Christina Berger ’00—with her husband, Adam ’01—decided to start a GoFundMe campaign to feed hospital workers. By lunchtime Tuesday, she was delivering the first of thousands of meals in and around Milwaukee.

Berger’s fundraising campaign—Feed Our Frontline Hospital Workers Milwaukee—has far exceeded expectations. Raising more than $35,000 in a little over a month, the campaign has provided more than 4,000 meals to 10 hospital sites in collaboration with five local restaurants.

“It means everything to be able to do this and to do it at a time where it is so critical,” Berger said, “and to know that we’re not only helping these businesses, but we’re helping these businesses also join us in service to all of these frontline workers. … It’s given myself and some other people a good sense of purpose.”

Helping People in Need

With an ER doctor for a father, Maxwell Perry ’19 knows the sacrifices that frontline hospital workers have made during this crisis—and the challenges they face on a daily basis.

So, the founder of Beantown Blankets did what Babson alumni do best: take action. Perry turned to the Beantown Blankets community and quickly raised $4,675—nearly double the original goal of $2,500—and provided 450 meals to hospitals in Greater Boston.

“I wanted to do something, because I knew we had our audience that would be happy to support it,” Perry said. “Because our whole mission is to give back and help people in need, I didn’t want to just sit on the sidelines and not take any action.”

‘Shows Our Appreciation’

Greg Burrill P’04 ’04 ’06 ’11 ’11 was looking for a way to lend a hand at Milford Regional Medical Center, where he has been involved for close to 40 years and still sits on the board of trustees.

“I feel very close to the hospital, and during these times, I would like to do more,” said Burrill, also a member of Babson’s Global Advisory Board.

So, he turned to a family favorite: Anzio’s Brick Oven Pizza, based in Northborough, Massachusetts. And, on April 17, Burrill worked with Anzio’s to bring its mobile pizza oven to the hospital’s grounds to cook and serve more than 500 individual pizzas in four hours.

“It was an incredible success,” Burrill said. “It just shows our appreciation. Food is always a great way to say thank you to people.”

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