Image of healthcare workers holding brown bags of food next to a trolley

COVID-19 has taken a toll on health care workers. We have all heard the stories of burnout, diminishing mental health and caregivers becoming infected with COVID-19. The pandemic recently reached its second anniversary, and health care workers have been on the front lines since the beginning—two years of difficult, draining and heartbreaking situations.

At the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), an anonymous Westmount couple stepped up to show health care workers that they recognize the difficulty and sacrifices of working in the COVID unit. Since the pandemic began, they have provided thousands of meals to hospital staff working to save the lives of patients with severe COVID-19.

It all began in Spring 2020, when the world was facing the first wave of the coronavirus. Our donors were determined to help alleviate the burden on frontline health care workers.

“We puzzled over how we could help. We then proposed that since the front-liners were working 12-hour shifts with one meal break, covered head-to-toe with equipment that could not be easily removed, why not propose hot meals?” explained our donor.

The Westmount couple engaged a few restaurants in the area and began to send hot meals to every staff member on the COVID unit, three shifts a day, seven days a week. Not only did health care workers receive a meal to lift their spirits and recognize their hard work, the solution also helped restaurant owners, who were struggling to keep afloat through lockdown.

“None of these front-liners were in any way trained to be epidemic or pandemic nurses,” says our donor. “The nurse manager on the COVID unit told us that every day and night in their wards patients would die. It must have felt like a war zone.”

The program ran for 10 months, providing up to 104 meals per day. The frontline health care workers, exhausted and feeling the weight of losing so many patients, were grateful.

“Receiving a free meal from a donor through the MUHC Foundation reminds us that our work is valued and not forgotten,” says Benoit Cousineau, Nurse Manager in the emergency room.

The meal program wound down with COVID cases, but when Omicron hit in late 2021, our donors knew how demoralizing it would be for health care staff, who had endured wave after wave of the virus. In Winter 2022, they restarted their gift of hot meals. Restrictions were beginning to ease, but hospitals were still caring for dozens of severely ill patients. This time, meals are made by five restaurants located inside the MUHC: Kim Jen Ming – Cantine Satay Brothers, Subway, Presse Café, Boulangerie & cie, and Comptoir Veritas Café. In all, 700 meals are provided each week.

Though anonymous, our donors hope that their gift will inspire others to provide support and recognition to health care workers through donations, food and other gestures of gratitude. These caring gestures don’t go unnoticed—to hospital staff, they make all the difference.

In kind donations of food and other gifts are eligible for a tax receipt. If you are interested in providing a gift to health care workers at the MUHC, please contact us at 514-843-1543.