Off Their Plate: Delivering Hope

To say healthcare workers “have a lot on their plates” is a gross understatement. Their plates are packed. Towering. Overflowing. They’ve been working tirelessly to not just care for themselves and their families, but for strangers – in much greater volumes and for much longer hours than previously imaginable. Finding time for meals can feel impossible – but there’s an organization that wants to take that, even for one day, Off Their Plate.

All media courtesy of Off Their Plate.

Off Their Plate defines itself as “a grassroots movement creating a conduit for local communities to provide nutritious meals to tireless frontline COVID healthcare workers and economic relief to local restaurant workers who have been affected by the crisis.” Essentially, they partner with local restaurants and volunteers to cook and deliver meals, supporting not only our network of healthcare workers, but helping to revive restaurants. Though it’s Boston-based, OTP has now worked its way to nine cities – including Philadelphia, where smaller-scale operations like Kalaya and El Merkury are chipping away at feeding the city’s healthcare workers. 

To find out more, I got to chat with Victoria Sansone, a service-minded sophomore in the Wharton School, who’s currently a volunteer on the organization’s fundraising team. She video-calls me from her room in St. Louis, all smiles. 

“I found out about it through my job on campus,” she recounts. “I interned for the Wharton Social Impact Initiative. They run a lot of student programming, including a podcast… my boss told me about a new episode that featured Susanna Hamilton and Ellen Halle. So I was able to listen to the whole podcast, and while I was writing, I was like, ‘Wow. This is awesome. I want to get involved.’” She got in touch. “I think because it’s volunteer-run, they were very open to bringing me on board.”

The fundraising team has by far the most people. “That’s the main concern,” she laughs. “I just joined two weeks ago, so I’m still relatively new, but I’m planning and have been working with foundations in Philly to try and get grants to Off Their Plate.”

As an organization, Off Their Plate has raised $3.8 million dollars. And just last week, Victoria tells me, the Philadelphia Foundation gave them a $50,000 grant. According to the website, every $100 donated provides ten meals to those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight, and three hours back to the workforce. That’s another 5,000 meals for healthcare heroes, and 1,500 hours back on the books for workers in the food industry.  

When I ask how OTP made its way to Philly, Victoria nods sweetly and tells me that one the heads of the Philly chapter, Susanna, went to undergrad with the founder in Boston. When she heard about it, she knew it’d have a place in Philly. Now, they’re partnering with the 76ers. 

The coolest thing, Victoria says, is that it’s entirely student-run. “Susanna and Ellen are MBA students, just graduated. So it’s a young-people-led, student-led, grassroots movement. Taking the most of the moment,” she tells me, “People are like, let’s make a difference. Obviously it helps healthcare workers by providing them with meals, but they really wanted to make the restaurant component a huge part, even a focus.” She even tells me that in Philly, the participating restaurants are primarily female-run and minority-run, “which is really cool and what distinguishes the Philly branch.” When Victoria asked if this was on purpose, “they were like, ‘It just happened.’” 

“I think everyone feels the need to contribute and do something to help other people during this crisis, which is awesome,” she says. 

So the next question was: How do we do that? How do we contribute?

“I was really surprised how willing Susanna and Ellen were to just bring on new people,” she admits. “I feel like, if you just reach out, you don’t have to fear rejection. People want help. Especially around social impact, helping the community. There are very few cases where people will turn you away.”

On the fundraising team, she says, there’s been no shortage of creativity. People are doing Instagram fundraisers, hosting yoga or cooking classes, and reaching out to friends and family to connect them with the cause. They’re dreaming up ways to use their ideas and talents to spread the word, and we can too. 

Follow @OffTheirPlate! Donate! Shout them out with one of these cool templates! Spread the word about this awesome organization.