Alone, Together: How Businesses Are Helping COVID-19 Frontline Efforts

May 20, 2020

During these unprecedented times, it is easy to succumb to feelings of anxiety and fear, and to be overwhelmed by a sense of foreboding and negativity. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of every individual in the world, upending personal and professional relationships, and disrupting economic, workplace⁠—and particularly relevant to me—educational activities. 

Like many college students, I was sent home suddenly from my school, the George Washington University, with little understanding of what was happening. Shortly before I left, however, I had started a new job at TwentyTables—an award-winning D.C. startup—and through that lens, I’ve seen both the immense challenges small businesses face, as well as the unique role they can play in uplifting the communities around them.

Business owners in every corner of the world are facing immense, and at times, seemingly insurmountable challenges—from shuttering storefronts for the safety of staff and patrons, to laying off valued employees, to facing existential questions around continued operations once the pandemic is over. Small businesses in particular, with shoe-string budgets and volatile customer demand, are confronting indefinite and immense uncertainty. At the same time, healthcare workers are under tremendous pressure, with a sudden shift in the nature and scale of their collective responsibilities, yet still expected to perform as consummate professionals, all while being short-staffed and ill-equipped to face the influx of patients. 

However, many businesses, large and small, have stepped up to support their communities and those risking their lives every day during this crisis, including TwentyTables. Twenty Tables connects food vendors to consumers and locally-based, food-insecure organizations, to provide affordable meals and help end hunger in all forms. For every meal served through our company, we donate one to charity. Given the rise in food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, we knew we could mobilize our unique network, expertise and resources to address this issue, and continue fulfilling our core mission: providing access to food for those in need

Over the past two months, TwentyTables redirected its resources and its network of committed vendors to serve thousands of meals to healthcare workers on the frontlines of this pandemic. We launched our “Feed the Frontlines” campaign in mid-March. As part of the campaign, for every $700 raised, a food truck would visit hospitals and other first-response entities to provide 100 meals to healthcare workers. So far, we have raised over $30,000 to serve thousands of meals to healthcare workers at ten D.C.-area hospitals. At the same time, TwentyTables has provided its vendors—a network of over 100 small businesses—the opportunity to continue gainful and fulfilling work. 

These numbers don’t just show the impact of the campaign; they demonstrate how businesses, even in times of uncertainty, genuinely care about their communities. And although this is the darkest hour for countless businesses, there are many ways in which they too can contribute to frontline efforts, and in doing so, find a way to survive through service.

Many small businesses on platforms like Etsy, for example, leaned into the crisis and immediately started creating and donating reusable masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The retail industry also rallied, with companies like Dove, Apple, and Spanx donating products and proceeds from sales to COVID-19 relief efforts. Hospitality has opened their doors and hearts to those impacted, whether by partnering with nonprofits like Feeding America to provide meals to people in need, or hosting displaced healthcare workers and homeless individuals. In each case, clarity of vision and the knowledge that profit and purpose can co-exist have created immense benefit to all.

It is tough for everyone to adjust to this new normal. And it is easy to feel like there is nothing we can do to make things better, but we can. Although we are isolated, this is a time where we can and must come together. How businesses act now will not determine if they survive this challenging time, and for those that do, it will define them for decades. TwentyTables and its employees are determined to help. That’s who we are and what we aspire to be—a  Community of Food.

If you are interested in learning more about the Feed the Frontlines GoFundMe campaign, you can visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/dn24f-food-for-the-front-lines