Meet the team who’s managed thousands of meals donated to YNHH

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Sharon Anderson, executive administrative assistant (left), helped Ellen Harris, patient care associate, load a cart with donated food for her unit, Neuro and Medical Specialty.


Since COVID-19 hit in early March, Yale New Haven Hospital has received nearly 50,000 meals from local restaurants and individuals, evidence of our communities’ gratitude to our front-line workers.

But how does all that food get to where it needs to go throughout the hospital? As you might imagine, it takes a dedicated effort.

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Dena Patton, administrative associate, took account of a meal delivery from Frontline Foods that fed employees working the night shift on a COVID unit.

“When the pandemic began, the community jumped into action,” said Jeannette Young, senior development officer. “People would call the office at all times of the day wanting to deliver meals, or just show up at the hospital with food. We needed to get a system in place, and fast.”

Young called Dean Caruso, executive director, Support Services and Sustainability. “People wanted to donate anything from a dozen cupcakes to 1,000 cups of coffee,” said Caruso. “So we organized a small and nimble team to manage the effort.”

That team includes Sharon Anderson, executive administrative assistant; Dena Patton, administrative associate; and Alex Flanders, development assistant. Menger Zheng, lead dietetic technician, also helped when needed. They have been hard at work behind the scenes coordinating food deliveries from more than 100 donors.

“There have even been food trucks, and ‘mega’ donations of non-perishable foods that were directed to the Regional Operations Center (ROC) in West Haven for storage,” said Flanders.

Here’s how the donation process works: Donors contact the Development Office, where Flanders collects their information and sends it to Anderson and Patton each morning. Some donations are for a specific unit; others are for anyone to enjoy. Anderson and Patton use a detailed spreadsheet to see who’s next in line to receive food and help ensure donations are distributed across the York Street and Saint Raphael campuses and to the Shoreline Medical Center and Grimes Center.

“At first it was a little hectic to coordinate,” said Anderson. “Visitor restrictions made it more difficult for meals to get to the units, but the donors have learned to work with us.”

As many as 550 meals came in daily from Frontline Foods, a national initiative to feed healthcare workers and support local food businesses. Although Frontline Foods’ New Haven Chapter has paused its local efforts, it partnered with more than 20 area restaurants to deliver more than 25,000 meals to YNHH.

Sandip Mukherjee, MD, executive medical director of Yale New Haven Health’s Office of the Chief Clinical Officer, worked closely with Frontline Foods to organize its YNHH efforts. “We will never forget the profound impact Frontline Foods made on supporting our caregivers at a crucial moment of our history,” he said.

That gratitude extends to all donors who helped nourish staff during this difficult time. “The staff are so appreciative when we call up to say that food has arrived for them,” said Anderson. “The outpouring of support from our community partners makes staff feel valued.”

After orders are delivered, Cathi Greenstein, coordinator, Development Events, contacts donors to express the hospital’s appreciation and gather information needed to send them a letter of acknowledgement. Many letters have been going out.

Patton, who was assigned from the labor pool to help coordinate the effort, said, “There have been so many donations – it’s amazing to see first-hand how generous our community is.”