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Local restaurants, industry leaders team up to provide meals to healthcare workers

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BATON ROUGE - Local restaurants delivered meals to hospitals Monday night, kick-starting a campaign to feed healthcare workers on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each day a collection of 70 restaurants will rotate, feeding 500 total hospital staff at four locations in the capital city, Baton Rouge General Mid City, Baton Rouge General Bluebonnet, Our Lady of the Lake and Ochsner Medical Center. 

"Four restaurants each day have the opportunity to help healthcare workers, at the same time help themselves employ people and get a little cash flow through their restaurants," restaurateur Stephen Hightower said. 

The participating restaurants make up the 'Better Together Baton Rouge Restaurant Coalition.' 

Hightower, who co-chairs the group, says the idea to feed those on the frontlines came together after restaurant owners met to discuss adjusting to the 'new normal' of delivery and take-out only. The effort is not only helping the healthcare workers, but also the restaurants themselves. 

"The restaurant industry was obviously the most talked about and most hurt, out of the gate, from the virus," Hightower said. "We laid off all of our workers, and this initiative, first and foremost, has allowed us to bring back people to work. We're cooking. We're doing what we do best. Something that's been ingrained in the restaurant industry, for as long as I've been in it, is helping the community."

To get the 'Fueling the Fight' program off the ground, local leaders in business and health care have pitched in to pay for thousands of meals.

ExxonMobil donated $40,000 in addition to gas cards for healthcare workers. Blue Cross Blue Shield and Humana donated $50,000 each, while Entergy donated $100,000. 

"We are so just in awe of what [healthcare workers] are doing," Jody Montelaro of Entergy said. "To go out there every day and to truly help the lives and save the lives of all the people here in the greater Baton Rouge area, putting your own health on the line."

With those initial donations as well as donations from the public, Hightower says they'll be able to provide much more than a well-deserved meal.

"When they get that hot meal at the end of a long shift or the start of a new shift, we bring hope," Hightower said. "That the normalcy of our daily lives is going to come back, and it's not without their efforts that that will happen."

To donate, click here.

To see a full list of participating restaurants, click here.

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