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The four restaurants currently involved in Nourished deliver food at a controlled hospital access point.

Credit: Alexa Cotler

The Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation and Penn Medicine’s Workforce Wellness Committee announced the creation of a new program aimed at providing meals to frontline hospital staff and sustaining local restaurants amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program, Nourished, first launched at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center on April 1 and will expand to Penn Medicine's other hospitals beginning on April 22, Penn Medicine News reported. More than 750 meals have been ordered using the text messaging system so far. 

Workers can order a week's worth food or a single meal from five local restaurants. Pumpkin, On Point Bistro, Baology, Cafe Ynez, and El Merkury made agreements with Penn Med to assure safe practices in the preparation, individual packaging, and contactless delivery of the food, Penn Medicine News reported. The food is delivered at a controlled hospital access point. 

The platform was first proposed by Penn Medicine Center for Health Care Innovation associate Ryan Schumacher and then initiated by Chair of the Workforce Wellness Committee Lisa Bellini, according to Penn Medicine News. From the original inception, it took only two weeks for the program to be up and running. 

“Many aspects of daily life have changed with the arrival of the coronavirus, including ordering take-out. Food access during the pandemic has been a challenge, both for staff looking for a safe and affordable meal and for restaurants who have been hurt by a lack of business,” Bellini told Penn Medicine News. Bellini added that she wanted to help both healthcare workers get food and restaurants retain business with Nourished. 

Amid the pandemic, Penn Medicine has introduced a number of programs aimed at supporting workers. Programs include the Life at the Front Line online form where employees can ask questions, self-care video chat sessions, and the Spread the Love platform to send notes of encouragement to hospital staff, according to Penn Medicine News Blog

“Nourished helps restaurants in the community out while providing meals in a safe, sustainable, and delightful way to all of our hard-working health care professionals — it’s a true win-win," Schumacher told Penn Medicine News.

Schumacher and Bellini said they hope to expand Nourished to other health systems and communities in the near future.