Above: Chef Cristian Pontiggia of Sassella delivers meals to first responders at Christus St. Vincent hospital. Photo courtesy of Sassella.

No industry in Santa Fe has been hit harder by the pandemic than the hospitality industry. As hotels closed and restaurants shuttered, many businesses, organizations, and local food heroes quietly and quickly rallied. Their mission was to feed Santa Fe’s first responders.

Nurses, doctors, and technicians work under extremely stressful circumstances and are working very long hours. They are putting themselves in harm’s way every day, and they frequently don’t take the time or have the means to nourish themselves. Lawrence Becerra, the CEO of Spinning Plates Group, which owns Sassella and Sazón restaurants in Santa Fe, quickly rallied his teams and initiated Meals for First Responders. They began raising money to feed first responders at Christus St. Vincent hospital, where a staff of eighty-two dedicated employees is dealing with all in-patient and emergency services. 

Since March 30, they have raised a total of $46,175 and delivered 2,565 meals. Eight-two meals were provided daily for five weeks to the first responders at Christus St. Vincent. Their goal was to get to May 15, and they managed to raise enough money to make it to May 9, just six days short. They will continue to deliver the meals if they raise more money.

Becerra said, “We are very proud of what we were able to accomplish and only wish we could have done more. We want to thank all of our patrons who gave generously despite being bombarded with requests for funding and allowed us to meet these milestones.

It is going to be a long and arduous recovery for the restaurant industry. Our industry has been one of the hardest hit during this pandemic and requires a unique set of solutions to bring it back to life. But the industry has also been one of the most generous in its response to the pandemic, and I do believe that we will come back better and stronger than ever.”

Meanwhile, Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, acting as the non-profit fiscal agent, partnered with Tourism Santa Fe and Hutton Broadcasting to launch the Santa Fe Feeds First Responders program. In its first two weeks, Santa Fe Feeds First Responders had collected $20,000 in donations. The donations go to feed Santa Fe’s first responders working tirelessly at all three city hospitals: Presbyterian, Christus St. Vincent, and the Indian Hospital. More than two-dozen of Santa Fe’s restaurants have joined Santa Fe Feeds First Responders as partners. The money raised is converted to $20 gift certificate vouchers that are issued to all three hospitals so their first responders can use on to-go food at any one of the participating restaurants.

Justin Schroer, Directory of Development at Presbyterian Healthcare Foundation, said, “I got a call from one of our clinicians yesterday who said how amazing their meals have been. Thank you to the generous donors and restaurants who helped make this happen and to all who put extra special care and thought into the preparation and “goodness” into the meals given to our healthcare staff.”

100% of the proceeds go to pay restaurants directly for the meals, and also pay local delivery services to deliver the food if needed. Donations are tax-deductible. 

As of May 14, Santa Fe Feeds First Responders has raised $30,000, with five-hundred $20 vouchers delivered to the three Santa Fe hospitals, and another one hundred and thirty-seven certificates provided to the EMT staff at Santa Fe Fire Departments.

These collaborations are genuinely inspiring during these strange and troubled times. A great deal of gratitude goes out to those involved for being on the front lines and feeding our first responders. These are true Local Food Heroes.

To donate to Meals for First Responders, visit sassellasantafe.com.

To donate to Santa Fe Feeds First Responders, visit santafefeedsfirstresponders.org/donate

Read more Beyond the Plate local food hero storiesLearn more about our partners, Niman Ranch at nimanranch.com.

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