The Current

Students raise $30,000 to thank health-care workers with 'a good, decent meal'

A group of McGill medical students is fundraising to buy meals from local restaurants to deliver to hospital staff.

MerciMeals MTL aims to support both hospital staff and local restaurants

MerciMeals MTL aims to support both hospital staff and local restaurants by buying meals from restaurants to deliver to health-care workers. (Courtesy Melissa Vitagliano )

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A group of medical students in Montreal have raised about $30,000 to deliver hot meals to health-care workers — in turn helping to support the local restaurants preparing them.

Melissa Vitagliano co-founded MerciMeals MTL after asking front-line workers what she and fellow founders Jordana Serero and Olivier Del Corpo could do to help. 

"A lot of them simply said: 'We could really use a good, decent meal,'" said Vitagliano, a third-year medical student at McGill University.

"[They said] the hospital's really busy these days. It's really hard to get to the grocery store, let alone prepare yourself a meal," she told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

With their clinical rotations cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the students reached out to local restaurants to gauge interest then started fundraising, collecting over $15,000 in two days, Vitagliano said. 

While some restaurants offered to donate meals, Vitagliano said the purpose of the fundraising is to pay for the food.

"We try to emphasize that while trying to support the health-care workers, we're simultaneously trying to support these local restaurants," she said.

MerciMeals MTL was founded by McGill medical students. It consists of (left to right) Anthony Thorburn, Melissa Vitagliano, Vincent Palmieri, Kaylie Schacter, Olivier Del Corpo, Jordana Serero and Alexa Del Corpo (not pictured). (Courtesy Melissa Vitagliano)

"When we get an order of 150 people, that restaurant can then bring in maybe three employees that they previously had to lay off. And now they can at least provide for that day."

MerciMeals MTL, now a group of seven, started delivering meals last week and Vitagliano said they've averaged about 60 per day. 

The group is working with nine hospitals and 20 restaurants. 

"We're supplying everybody from doctors to admin to janitors to secretaries to nurses. So we try to incorporate the whole health-care team."

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Vitagliano said hospital workers have said the deliveries lift their spirits and make them feel appreciated by their community.

"They really feel like everybody has their back and it kind of gives them a little push for their shift."

Written by Justin Chandler. Produced by Emily Rendell-Watson.

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