As Boulder restaurants shut their doors amid the COVID-19 pandemic, health care providers are simultaneously facing increased workloads, stress and uncertainty.
CU Engineering’s Kyle Judah, executive director of entrepreneurship, is among a small group of community members including Occipital co-founder Vikas Reddy, who saw an opportunity: to support local restaurants while providing fuel for the fight against COVID-19 to frontline health care workers.
In a span of just six days, the team launched FeedTheFrontlinesBoulder.org and has already raised more than $400,000 of their $500,000 goal.
The program is designed to benefit health care workers and restaurants by allowing the community to donate meals from local restaurants to be delivered to health care workers and first responders on the front lines. The program launched at Boulder Community Health with the intention of scaling further across Boulder County to support other health care workers as well as first responders like police, firefighters, EMTs and senior care providers.
We asked Judah what motivated him to launch this initiative:
“One word: impact,” Judah said. “Seeing people from restaurants, hospitals, foundations, universities, startups, and venture capital rally together so quickly is inspiring, but knowing that we all have a shared, singular purpose of supporting our community in these troubling times is what makes this so exciting.”
CU Engineering’s digital media coordinator, Austin Braun, is also assisting by leading digital and social media strategy for the initiative.
“When Kyle brought me on board, I was eager to give back to the community that’s given me so much,” Braun said. “The outpouring of support we’ve received online is nothing short of inspiring – the internet has turned into a place of resources for those seeking to support their community. I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Boulder’s entrepreneurial connections
The effort found immediate support among Boulder’s entrepreneurial community, which already maintains close connections to the college and campus.
Brad Feld (general partner at Foundry Group) and Amy Batchelor (managing director of the Anchor Point Fund), Dan Caruso (CEO of Zayo Group) and his wife, Cindy, as well as local community members like John Goldsmith, are major backers of the project, offering $200,000 to kick-start the project. The next phase of Feed the Frontlines is already being fueled by tech companies in Boulder like Google, Twitter and Zayo.
The initial funding will supply 60 days’ worth of meals to all 300 health care workers and staff at Boulder Community Health, but fundraising continues to expand the impact to more restaurants and more under-resourced first responders.
As the project scales, the group continues to refine its open-sourced playbook for creating similar programs in other communities, and are working with volunteers from Denver, Durango, Colorado Springs, San Diego and as far away as Carmel, Indiana, to support those efforts.
“Necessity is the mother of invention,” Judah said. “At CU Engineering we’re constantly asking our student entrepreneurs to solve real world problems and make an impact in our community. We have to live those same values, and I expect we’ll see many more creative solutions as we tackle the ongoing challenges caused by coronavirus.”