Meals for the Frontline

The Maine chapter of Frontline Foods has provided more than 500 meals to Portland healthcare workers and supported local restaurants in the process

When Christopher Curran, who splits his time between Maine and New York City, heard about Frontline Foods’ efforts around the country to help support restaurants and feed hospital workers, he called his friend and fellow Portland-area native Lyle Divinsky about setting up a chapter in their home state. Divinsky, a touring musician based in California, and Curran, who works for OpenTable and owns a wine company in California, saw it as an opportunity to give back to the community that raised them. The network of volunteer-run chapters use the funds raised to pay local restaurants to make meals for healthcare workers. Besides a small processing fee, all of the donated funds go directly to the restaurants. At the Maine chapter, each meal costs about $20, which includes a 20 percent gratuity for restaurant staff. So far, Curran and Divinsky have raised over $10,000 and distributed more than 500 meals to workers at Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland and its satellite locations. The participating restaurants include Chaval, Duckfat, Evo Kitchen and Bar, the Knotted Apron, Luke’s Lobster Portland Pier, and Piccolo.

You can learn more and donate to the effort at the Maine chapter’s website.

Why did you decide to start the Maine chapter?

Divinsky: We have a lot of friends that are on the frontline right now, so we have a very deep investment in caring for the Maine community and making sure everybody involved is taken care of as much as possible. The Maine food scene is one of the best in the country, and it’s one of the things that helps define—especially in southern Maine—the Mainers of the 2000s. We want to make sure that survives so our culture survives, so that our community survives.

Curran: Growing up, you heard stories about how people have to move away and make a life for themselves and then move back later on. Maine’s 90 percent small business, and with what’s happened with the restaurants and the brewing scene—the entrepreneurial movement— now Mainers can stay in Maine and make money. It’s such a backbone of our community. And the healthcare industry, too. They’re two very pivotal backbones of the community that take care of us in their own way all the time. That’s why Lyle and I wanted to step up. Because it was our opportunity to take care of them.

What’s the benefit of this model?

Curran: It’s one central place where Mainers can go to donate the money. So each restaurant’s not getting 50 phone calls from 50 different people saying, “Hi, I want to give you $20.” 

It also prevents all of these different random people from coming to the hospital and trying to drop off food. The restaurants don’t have to waste time and the hospital can just focus on taking care of people.

Divinsky: Both the restaurants and the hospitals have enough to worry about right now. They’ve got so much on their plates, so much stress going on with the pandemic and everything else.

Are plans to add more restaurants or hospitals?

Curran: We have interest from other restaurants, but there’s only so much we raise, and the whole idea is to be sustainable, to build a consistent pipeline for them. The more money we can bring in, the more restaurants we can help.

Divinsky: We have an overabundance of restaurants that are ready to get on board. We have more hospitals that are trying to get involved. Right now it’s about raising awareness and getting extra funds.

How long will you continue the effort?

Divinsky: As long as there’s a need, as long any portion of this shelter-in-place is in effect, we want to be able to take care of our community. This community has given so much to us, and we want to be able to give back to it in ways that we’re able to. Everybody’s scrambling right now, everybody’s trying to make it up as they go. As a musician I’m doing the exact same. It’s just a way to keep your lights on, to keep your cooks paid, to keep some food coming in from the local farms. It’s a trickle-down thing. It’s not just money going to restaurants. It’s money going through the system of how we get our food.

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