January 18, 2022

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Lifelines Help Feed Rancho Mirage Restaurants Hungry For Business

RANCHO MIRAGE, CA — Two unique programs in Rancho Mirage may offer other cities ideas on how to help struggling restaurants survive amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, the city of Rancho Mirage announced it would provide funding to some of its local full-service restaurants in an effort to keep them open for the community. Officials decided that, if the restaurants met certain criteria, they could each receive $8,000 from the city. Smaller coffee and juice cafes could receive $5,000 under the program.

“These funds are to ensure stable and continuous access to food for our community during the Stay-at-Home order by the State of California,” a city news release read.

To cover the cost, on March 19 Rancho Mirage City Council approved a budget not to exceed $400,000 from the city’s Disaster Preparedness Reserve fund.

The only types of eateries not eligible for city funding are fast food or local restaurants with existing drive-thrus; corporate chain restaurants; and small convenience stores.

The city isn’t the only one helping the restaurants. Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce CEO Katie Stice launched Operation Feed the Front Lines last month. The program provides meals and treats from local restaurants to area nurses and doctors who are busy saving lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The healthcare workers don’t pay for the food. Instead, donations are made by community members, which in turn are used to buy meals at local eateries. The food is then delivered to the nurses and doctors.

An Operation Feed the Front Lines GoFundMe page has raised more than $6,600 as of Thursday afternoon.

“In this scenario, everyone wins!” Stice explained. People want to help struggling local businesses and healthcare workers on the front lines.

“Our nurses and doctors are working in war-like conditions,” Stice continued. “I do not have access to PPE but I do have access to really good food — and if only morale is boosted or one hard-working nurse smiles, we have done our job.”

According to Stice, 840 meals have been provided to three local hospitals and an additional 420 meals are planned before the end of April. Six-hundred bags of popcorn from Brandini Toffee and countless cookies from Exquisite Desserts have also been devoured by the medical teams, she said.

The restaurants handle the deliveries, but every once in a while Stice wrangles volunteers.

“I have a few volunteers who are healthy and have PPE for making deliveries. We contact the ICU charge nurses that day and then again upon arrival. A few nurses bring out a cart to load up the meals and get them to the day and night shifts. Deliveries usually happen in the evenings to ensure both shifts get food,” she explained.

The Slice NY Style Pizzeria, Dringk, The Sandbox, Norma’s Italian, Jimmy John’s, and more, are feeding the workers, according to Stice.

Eateries sometimes make food donations — if they can afford it. Like Krispy Kreme, which ignited the spark for Stice. She saw a pic of healthcare workers holding a sign pleading for doughnuts and coffee.

“That photo was the inspiration behind the entire program. When I saw it, I stopped what I was doing and said, ‘They want doughnuts and coffee? I can do that,’” Stice said.

While the Operation Feed the Front Lines GoFundMe page has taken off, others have grabbed the concept and done the same. Still others have purchased gift certificates for the medical teams. Stice said it’s all good.

“This is close to my heart because I come from a family of nurses and first responders,” she explained. “My sister is a critical care nurse at Desert Regional Medical Center, my mother is a home health care nurse, my grandmother and great grandmother were nurses, and my father is a retired firefighter.”

The Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce is also tied into the hospitals, hosting the Desert Nurses Appreciation Luncheon annually.

“The work they do,” Stice said, “really is heroic.”

To find a list of Coachella Valley restaurants open for takeout and/or drive-thru, click here.

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This article originally appeared on the Palm Desert Patch

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