Madison-based catering company works to feed the front lines

Published: Apr. 3, 2020 at 12:03 PM CDT
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As the coronavirus outbreak spread, and action started to stop the spread, David Porto, owner and director of events for Blue Plate Catering, saw business decline.

“As more states started shutting things down, clients would call us and say ‘hey we’re not going to do this lunch for 100 people next week,’” he said. “Then it became, ‘hey, we have to postpone our wedding.’ Then it became ‘hey, we really can’t do any events.’ It kind of just became this predicament of no events happening, when catering of course, the business plan is large events or large gatherings of people.”

But instead of giving up, Porto decided that he wanted to give back.

“My wife and I know a lot of people that are in the health services or medical profession, one of our dear friends is a nurse at UW hospital” he said. “We just through talking with her have learned about how crazy everything is for them, and really just wanted to be able to support them in this time.”

For Blue Plate Catering, that support comes in the form of food.

“A lot of times, a great way to make someone kind of happy or take a little bit of stress out of their lives – give them a meal, a hot meal they don’t have to think about,” he said. “It’s just there, it’s one less thing that they need to worry about throughout the course of their day.”

Across the country, local businesses have been finding ways to give back to those on the front lines fighting the pandemic. Blue Plate Catering is one of those businesses, pitching in in an effort they’re calling Feed the Front Lines.

The business is inviting members of the public to buy meals for those on the front lines. With that money, Porto said they the cost of food, and also pay their staff during a challenging time in the food industry.

“Blue Plate Catering is not interested in making a profit at this time, we’re interested in two things. One, feeding those who are working, who have essential jobs, who have to spend 10 to 15 minutes putting on their scrubs because they have to put on their masks and all the extra gear they need to put on, so their time is eaten up,” he said. “And then two, giving work back to our staff who are sitting waiting for work to happen again.”

So far, Porto said they have delivered more than 200 meals to members of the Fitchburg and Verona Fire Departments, as well as medical professionals at both St. Mary’s Hospital and Associated Physicians in Madison.

“It makes us feel very supported and it makes us feel like people are thinking of us here and that they realize what we're going through and want to give back which is nice, especially being in a career where all we do is give back,” said Sara Bahrs, an ICU nurse at St. Mary’s. “So it’s very nice to have that reciprocated from complete strangers."

At Associated Physicians in Madison, staff said the meal delivery offered a bit of normalcy.

"We were very happy, we were filled with joy, we were very appreciative that someone thought about us,” said Kristy Turner, a certified medical assistant at Associated Physicians. “It gave us a moment to step away from the phones and to have a hot meal together."

For Capriana Copus, marketing assistant at Associated Physicians, Blue Plate Catering’s delivery meant so much more than the meals themselves.

“Things get so tense when it’s this high stress, super chaotic kind of time, and there’s so many questions and there’s so much still that’s unknown” said Copus. “It really helped to kind of brings us back down to earth and just allow us to take off our medical hats.”

Porto said the community has bought about 750 meals, meaning there are still hundreds more to deliver.

"Just really say to our front line workers, we see you, we appreciate you, we understand that you’re sacrificing a lot," Porto said. "If there’s a way that we can give a little bit back and let you know Madison's behind you, that’s what we want to do."

For more information on Blue Plate Catering’s efforts through Feed the Front Lines,

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