RICHMOND HILL, Ont. — When COVID-19 surfaced last March, almost overnight, the foodservice-and-hospitality industry became one of the hardest-hit industries in the world. But that didn’t stop many foodservice operators from turning their focus to helping the community during this time of need.
Mohamad Fakih, CEO of Paramount Fine Foods, became one of the busiest operators in Canada, working round the clock to keep his businesses alive while at the same time, turning his efforts to help the community on various fronts, both in Canada and his native Lebanon, where he helped the country when disaster struck last summer.
Foodservice and Hospitality magazine recognized Fakih for his philanthropic efforts in December by making him one of 11 ‘Hospitality Heroes’ recognized in both the foodservice and hotel spaces.
Now Fakih has teamed up with Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare — an Ontario union representing healthcare workers. The partnership will provide hot meals to SEIU Healthcare members working at the frontline of the crisis in long-term care homes through a program dubbed Food for the LTC Frontline.
“We are so much in debt to all of the frontline health workers who are attending to our seniors in long-term-care homes during the tragedy that is unfolding again during this massive second wave of the pandemic. We want to show our support and gratitude to these workers by delivering free hot meals to them during this extraordinarily difficult time,” said Fakih, who explained that many of these workers are working around the clock, with little time or energy to eat properly.
The Food for the LTC Frontline campaign will start delivering thousands of hot meals to workers this week, beginning with people who are working in some of the hardest-hit locations in the Greater Toronto Area. The objective is to expand the reach of the program for the remainder of the current surge, as additional donations and resources come in, and deliver 30,000 meals over the next two months.
Fakih has donated $14,000 to the cause, as has the Islamic Relief Fund. An additional $14,000 comes from other groups. Helping these frontline workers in this severely impacted long-term-care homes is “a way to say we love you and we feel your pain.” Fakih told Foodservice and Hospitality last week, adding that he personally visited some of these workers and was saddened to see, in one case, a worker’s children sleeping on mattresses on the floor. Fakih added that though these workers were promised “hero” pay several months ago, they have yet to receive this increase, while continuing to put their own lives at risk. Fakih also said he was driven to help this segment as a way to show our younger generations the importance of treating our elders with respect. “I grew up believing that how we care for our seniors says a lot about us and our community; and the way to impact that right now is to treat our seniors’ caregivers well, with respect and appreciation.”
“We are happy to partner once again with Mohamad Fakih to help provide some comfort to the hardworking Canadian healthcare workers at the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. Our goal is to raise enough funds to provide 2,000 meals,” said Reyhana Patel, who leads Communications and Government Relations at Islamic Relief Canada. The campaign is expected to last for three months.
“This moment calls on us to do all we can to support our healthcare heroes on the frontline who are bearing a financial, emotional and health burden during this ongoing crisis. It’s past time we better care for those who care for us. I thank Mohamad for his generosity to fund this initiative, along with other donors such as Islamic Relief Canada. We know this will warm the hearts of our members serving on the frontline of long-term care,” said Stewart.
The Food for the LTC Frontline campaign is accepting charitable donations to pay for the meals at islamicrelief.ca/frontline.
SEIU Healthcare represents more than 60,000 healthcare and community-service workers across Ontario. The union’s members work in hospitals, homecare, nursing and retirement homes and community services throughout the province.