The Richmond community continues to put its money where its collective mouth is, this time helping two groups affected by COVID-19.

Loving Lunches RVA officially launched Tuesday to provide restaurant meals to those working on the front lines in hospitals, clinics, testing facilities, community practices and elsewhere. The benefits are two-fold: The donation-based program purchases meals from local participating restaurants. Those meals are then delivered free to people who need them, including both day- and night-shift workers.

The program is a partnership between the Richmond Academy of Medicine and Retail Merchants. The Community Foundation provided a grant to get the program up and running, though it will continue through private donations. So far, upwards of 70 restaurants are included, and they span the greater Richmond area.

“This is a great way for the community to come together and accomplish two really important goals right now,” said Jim Beckner, executive director of the Richmond Academy of Medicine, adding that 100% of the donations go directly toward purchasing meals.

“It’s very intentionally designed to put money into local restaurants and food establishments,” he said. The purchases include tips. He noted that many restaurants are already donating food to those on the front lines despite knowing they may have to eventually close.

“They are so gracious,” Beckner said about Richmond’s restaurant community. “They include extra things, [and] they do more than they’ve been asked to do.”

In a written statement, Retail Merchants President Nancy Thomas said Loving Lunches RVA allows restaurants to get back to what they do best — “serving people in the community.”

“These businesses are paying a heavy price for measures intended to limit the spread of COVID-19,” she said, “and this program helps bring them business while simultaneously, showing gratitude to our health care workers.”

A trial run last week fed 450 people. This week, more than 500 are expected to be fed at six locations, Beckner said, and that includes day and nighttime shifts. They’re going to continue for as long as the funding continues.

“Our only limitation right now is funds — the more funds we have, the more meals we can provide,” he said. “In the midst of this scary, frightening, horrible thing, there is this beautiful other thing taking place. That does your heart good.”

For information, to request meals or to donate, visit www.ramdocs.org/page/LovingLunchesRVA.

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