When Gavin Newsom issued the shelter in place order on Thursday March 19th, 2020, most restaurants in California furloughed their line cooks and wait staff without knowing when they might re-open. Many restaurants turned to crowd-funding, but a patchwork of GoFundMe campaigns had no chance of sustaining the restaurant business through a global pandemic.
On March 24th, I spotted an opportunity to do something meaningful.
At some point, years ago, I must have followed Ayelet. I probably saw her tweet something smart or funny or both — because that’s what I do on the interwebs.
I donated $100, and with a sense of urgency, I e-mailed Ayelet that I wanted to help with East Bay FeedER in any way I could. I got busy helping to set up operations that could scale. Seeing the terrifying news coming out of Italy, Madrid, and New York, we prepared for things to get very bad very fast.
I called on my friends and colleagues for help and they stepped up, connecting me with decision makers at Google, Adobe, Slack, and Airtable. Every one of these companies moved at the speed of a young startup to offering their software at no cost. That software enabled us to set up this pop-up relief effort in two weeks and serve the first 10,000 meals in just 30 days.
This was digital serendipity at its finest. Over the next month, we would raise $500K, we would pay that money to a hand picked list of local restaurants, and we would deliver that food to healthcare workers around the east bay.
A couple of important shout-outs.
Speaking of scaling up, while I focused on our East Bay community, Frontline Foods took a high-tech seed I planted, and they grew it into an *incredible* nationwide effort. Frontline Foods is a super-group of people that came together at at a speed like I’ve never seen. One puzzle piece that enabled their growth was Airtable.
This sounds like an advertisement, but I wrote this blurb about Airtable because it’s my honest opinion.
Spreadsheets are cool, but a database that you can configure in the same amount of time is way cooler, and a database scales.
We set up a Airtable to manage our restaurant food pickups, our hospital needs and meal deliveries, and track payments to our restaurants. The speed at which our remote — socially distant team — could come together to collaborate in Airtable was incredible.
The interface is super approachable, but when we did need help, Airtable staff were super supportive and amazing to work with. They granted us access to their beta software within hours of our request. With their support, we were able to extend Airtable’s capabilities to minimize manual administrative work, and free up our volunteers to just deliver on our mission.
Airtable's support for COVID-19 response efforts
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Cloud hosted productivity tools from Slack, Google, and a slick database from Airtable enabled us to come together to build EastBayFeedER and support our community incredibly quickly, which is exactly what this moment required.
And now for the icing on our 1-month anniversary cake. I recorded a 2 min thank you video with mediocre audio. Bonus: you can see my mug at the end.
Many companies made their collaborative cloud software available at no cost for COVID19 relief efforts. This mattered. It empowered us.
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Doing this work has warmed my heart and kept me sane in what is otherwise a scary and depressing moment to be alone in my downtown Oakland apartment. Thank you to all my new friends at #EastBayFeedER, thank you to all of our volunteers. Thank you to everyone who is coming together to show up and support those around them. Community is so important right now. I look forward to keeping a more connected sense of community after this crisis.
I’ll close by asking for thoughts from my tens and tens of readers. How do YOU think we can do a better job of supporting each other in non-pandemic times?
As shelter in place continues, so does our mission.
The World Central Kitchen is doing tremendous work.
- Donate Now: https://wck.org/
Yes, It is tax deductible
WCK is a registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization
- You can also donate directly to a local chapter of Frontline Foods
Shameless Plug: I’m also a Project Manager, but I recently left EVgo when they shut down their Northern CA Project management office.
I’m looking for new opportunities in the EV charging world or the broader renewable energy sector. I’m also interested in the Non Profit sector and how I might continue on this journey I’ve started with EastBayFeeder.org
If you have any questions about charging electric vehicles, you’ve found the right corner of the web. Ask me anything and / or send interesting job opportunities to email@example.com