By Lesley Reed
For The Beachcomber
As restaurants around the state shuttered when the first stay-at-home orders were issued in March, one islander found her food service more in demand than ever.
Chef Heidi Finley is the owner and founder of Maven Meals, which delivers breakfast, lunch and dinner to homes and businesses in Pierce and King Counties, including Vashon. Finley created the business to provide nutritious, flavorful meals to people without the time to make healthy meals for themselves. But the lock-downs created a whole new type of demand.
“When the pandemic hit, we saw a huge rise in orders,” Finley said. “Business doubled.”
Finley hired more employees, but the stress of keeping those employees safe and ramping up deliveries was, she said, “extraordinarily stressful at first. It felt like an enormous amount of responsibility.”
She poured over King County’s pandemic action plan and developed worst-case scenarios. She added extra staff so that anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 could take sick days without worry. Then, once the business was humming smoothly, she asked what more she could do.
“We had the ability to serve more of the community,” she said. “We wanted to serve those who are working hard keeping us all safe.” And so Maven Meals created the Healthcare Heroes Campaign.
Finley reached out to hospitals in the greater Seattle area, offering free meals to health care workers. On the Maven Meals website, she offered customers the opportunity to donate to the cost of ingredients. Finley and her employees made and delivered the meals for free.
Starting in March and continuing through June 1, Finley’s team delivered 8,100 breakfasts and lunches to nine hospitals run by Healthpoint, Highline, Swedish, UW Medicine and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA).
“We donated 500 to 1,200 meals a week,” Finley said. “Our staff dug into it. It felt like a great way to support the community and our health care workers who are working long hours.”
The service was made possible thanks to the generosity of 590 customers, many of whom were islanders, who supported the service with donations totaling $32,900.
“I’ve been really impressed by the ongoing support of our customers,” Finley said.
Almost half the meals—350 each week—were delivered to SCCA’s South Lake Union clinic: breakfast items like quiche and oatmeal, protein and grain lunch bowls, soups and hearty salads. Cancer patients have compromised immune systems and are more vulnerable to COVID-19, according to Dr. Steven Pergam, SCCA’s medical director of Infection Prevention and researcher Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Enforcing rigorous infection prevention measures was critical to protect patients.
“Maven Meals sprung into action early, reaching out to support our health care workers by donating meals to our staff in the South Lake Union clinic. Their generosity is truly remarkable,” an SCCA spokesperson shared by email. “In an especially stressful time, these meals not only sent a strong message of support to our staff but also ensured that they were getting the proper nutrition to remain focused on the job at hand — providing top-notch cancer care.”
Now that COVID-19 cases have dropped in the area and hospitals are returning to a semblance of normal, Finley has ended the Healthcare Heroes Campaign, but she still gets messages and photos of thanks.
“It’s been extraordinarily rewarding to be a part of the solution for our customers,” she said, “and the health care worker donations were the icing on the case.”