'Our responsibility to care': Asian restaurants to donate thousands of meals to B.C. hospitals

At least 30 Asian restaurants from across the Lower Mainland have banded together to donate thousands of meals to hospitals in the region.

The "Chopsticks to Health Care Heroes" campaign dropped off its first 100 meal boxes to Vancouver General Hospital Monday afternoon.

Organizers hope to deliver at least 2,900 lunch and dinners throughout the month of April.

"They're actually risking their lives for us to be safe so we have to do something for them," said Dachen Yang of Fortune Terrace Chinese Cuisine about the role doctors and nurses are playing amid the pandemic.

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Yang spent Monday morning in the kitchen with his staff helping to pack 50 meal boxes for delivery.

He says he hopes his small gesture will give front-line workers a boost knowing they don't have to worry about meals while trying to save lives.

'It's our responsibility to care'

It also gave some of his employees a day's worth of pay. All 28 have been laid off since mid-March.

Like many other Chinese restaurants, he says his business starting taking a hit back in February when revenue fell about 60 per cent. 

By then, many people in the Chinese community had already chosen to stay home, fearing the spread of COVID-19. 

His restaurant was only open for 15 days in March before it was mandated to shut down resulting in another major loss.

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But, despite the pain to his pocketbook, Yang said he was happy to help donate food and pay a day's worth of wages for a good cause.

"It's our responsibility to care about people who fight [for] lives and who save the ones we care [about]," he said. "They are more important than us, I think."

Hospitals in Vancouver, Richmond and Burnaby

Brought together by the Chinese Restaurant Awards, organizer Rae Kung says their efforts have been so popular, they've extended their initial two week plan to donate 1,500 meals just to VGH.

Kung says a nurse from Mount St. Joseph Hospital in East Vancouver recently emailed in hopes of being placed on their delivery list.

The facility is now set to receive 1,400 meals during the latter half of April.

Kung says, they've since heard from hospitals in Richmond and Burnaby.

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She and her team are also looking into supporting seniors' homes and fundraising for personal protective equipment for medical professionals.

People outside of the  industry have also reached out to contribute, she says, leading to a corresponding fundraising campaign that will send money back to restaurants who will cook the donated meals.