Helping From Home: How Frontline Feeders Philippines Inspires Us
Many advocacies have sprung up across Metro Manila ever since the region-wide lock down was implemented last 15 March 2020. We talk to Ros Juan and Karla Reyes of the Frontline Feeders initiative about what it takes to contribute and give back in the time of a pandemic.
For Karla Reyes, it all started with a simple desire to help. Little did she know that what seemed like a one-off endeavour would blossom into a continuing effort shared amongst people from different walks of life. “There are so many people who want to help, but [maybe] don’t know how. That’s where we [Frontline Feeders] come in”, she shared during a phone interview. Initially, she was asked to help deliver and provide 400 meals for Makati Medical Center through The Plaza Catering; this was in the initial days of the lockdown. With establishments beginning to close, health workers had little to no place to eat.
The organisation now began “adopting” hospitals to feed. As of last night (29 March), Karla notes that they now have 30+ adopted medical centres and many more they coordinate for. “Coordinate for— this means we connect providers and hospitals so that the feeding process is centralised”, she shares. Adopted hospitals on the other hand are those who are being provided for by Frontline Feeders on the daily. “Each coordinator handles two to three adopted hospitals, respectively… it’s all done from home. Around 90 per cent of them, I haven’t met but we all meet via Zoom — we all get dressed and come into the meeting like it’s work.”
Karla mentioned that she always wanted to build a community kitchen, especially for those who have no choice but to eat pagpag (recooked leftovers scavenged from trash). She always had an inclination to help through food (coming from a catering business) and when Ros Juan asked her to join Frontline Feeders, she was happy to do so. When asked about the challenges of the endeavour, she mentioned the travel and transportation restrictions they have to navigate. “We also have to be extra careful with our preparation of the meals with regards to sanitation and quality of food”.
Another hurdle is coordination. As they are not the only ones donating food to hospitals, the meals sometimes overlap creating a surplus in provisions. She urges those who want to help to seek out similar groups so that efforts are streamlined and donations are maximised. “We don’t know until when we will need to do this, so we can’t afford to be wasteful.” As we wrapped up our interview, I asked about what inspired her the most during this challenging time. She said, “A simple goal —which is to help— can bring different people together. It’s times like this that you really see that bayanihan effort”.
On a separate call, I got to talk to Ros about her own experience with the group. “It all started with a birthday. One of our contributors, Candy, wanted to celebrate her birthday by sending food to doctors on the frontlines.” From there, they all pulled together friends and acquaintances to keep the effort going. As of writing, Ros mentioned that they already have 20 coordinators and two major commissaries working with Frontline Feeders. For the donations that come in-kind, they send the supplies to partner commissaries, at-home chefs or cooks — all especially vetted by the team. Cash donations, if not used to buy supplies, are directed to commissary fees, shipping costs, salaries for cooks and other logistical expenses.
Ros is an active participant under the Twitter advocacy effort, #RescuePH, under which she was also part of rescue and relief operations during the Ondoy [Typhoon Ketsana] calamity that caused almost 800 fatalities. “This [COVID-19 situation] is more difficult because it lasts longer. And since it is nationwide, that’s an extra hurdle for us —you can’t just go to the grocery and buy relief goods.”
When asked why she wanted to help the frontliners per se, she shared, “It’s not only about food. It’s also about morale, to let them know that they are appreciated.” Frontline Feeders also coordinates with other groups who donate hot meals for health workers and as of writing, the departments they focus on are usually the emergency room and laboratories. “They don’t really have the time to go out and buy [food], sometimes they just eat and go”, Ros adds.
I wanted to end our Zoom call on a lighter note. When asked what the positive side to all this was, Ros answered, “Extreme conditions pave the way for more effort. People can and do step up when needed”. Echoing Karla's observation on the bayanihan effort she's witnessed.
Frontline Feeders is also partnered with RockEd Relief, which in turn focuses on providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). Through their hand-in-hand effort, this team shows us what hope and fortitude look like, especially at a time when it seems scarce.
In times of peril, true colours show. What Frontline Feeders represents for us is simple: we’re all in this together and help —even in small packages—can make the biggest difference.
To know more about Frontline Feeders, visit their Facebook page: facebook.com/FrontlineFeedersPH. As of writing, they are preparing around 3,500+ meals a day for 30+ hospitals. Cash donations may be done through Gcash, Paymaya, BPI, or BDO. For those who want to donate in kind, visit their website: frontlinefeedersph.com for more information on how to reach their coordinators.