This month, we talked to Grey Cohen, an 11th grade high school student from Atlanta, Georgia that started The Meal Bridge – a platform that has generated much needed business for restaurants during COVID shutdowns, while feeding brave health care workers in Atlanta and across the US.
One simply goes to the website, finds the information needed for a hospital unit and shift that is open to meal donations, and then donates a catered meal to them from any local restaurant.
For Grey, the idea came to her after hearing stories from her mom – a healthcare worker at Emory Hospital – about how the hospital was filling up with more and more patients and increased pressure on the overworked staff, as well as listening to her uncle talk about how he would like to support those workers by donating a meal for the staff. With COVID happening fast, Grey and her family saw their friends and local restaurants suffering, and she wanted to do her part to help those in her community.
HOW SHE STARTED…
To get the ball rolling, Grey’s dad, who owns an advertising firm, helped her build a website for The Meal Bridge. Next came the more challenging part of reaching out to Hospitals and getting through to the right people to get the information needed so people could begin to donate meals.
“It was really eye opening just seeing all the inner workings, like the administration side of hospitals. Things moved a little slower than I had expected, it was hard to get up the chain of command.” – Grey
But once they were connected with the first hospital, it became easier to reach out to others and some hospitals even reached out to them. They also listed all kinds of local restaurants that delivered to the hospitals they partnered with.
Grey was worried that by only advertising The Meal Bridge on her mom’s facebook she would have a limited reach. However, once a story ran on an Atlanta News website, the donations started coming in strong. She began to be contacted by hospitals and donors nationwide.
The Meal Bridge quickly began operating in 28 cities across the US. With donations growing and some hospital units receiving two meals a day, Grey was delighted to get feedback from health care workers thanking her for the meals and her support. Restaurants were also able to hire back furloughed workers thanks to the increase in business from the donations.
Currently, The Meal Bridge is on hold because hospitals are not as overwhelmed as before, and restrictions have begun to lift on restaurants. However the future is uncertain and Grey has said they are ready to restart if the need arises.
Grey feels the connections she made during this process, as well as the experience gained starting a business will come in handy in her future endeavors. For now though, she is focusing on finishing high school.
One of Grey’s major inspirations has been her dad. Watching his career lead him to owning his own business really inspired her, and showed her the hard work involved in getting off the ground and up and running.
“I think if you have an idea that is really meaningful to you, that’s enough to get you to go further and make it happen. This was so meaningful to me because my mom works in health care and we have friends in the restaurant industry, so we saw the effects first hand. And that really gave me the push I needed to make this happen.” – Grey
She also adds another important thing she learned during this whole process, “Relying on my community, just reaching out to people, everyone is so supportive if you just reach out.”