What started as a pizza drop-off in December took on a life of its own, in what’s being called “Feeding Our Frontline Heroes.”
ENCINITAS — On Dec. 12, in the midst of the COVID-19 surge that followed the Thanksgiving holiday in San Diego County, Syndee Wood picked up a stack of hot pizzas from Pandora’s Pizza in Leucadia and drove them to Scripps Memorial Hospital.
At the door, she asked for the pizzas to be taken to the Intensive Care Unit, where a friend of Wood’s works and had recently told her of the overwhelming conditions with the I.C.U. at 150 percent of capacity.
Later the same evening, Wood, an adjunct English professor at Palomar, posted a photo on Facebook of her visit to Scripps.
“That’s how it all began,” she recalled. “I woke up the next morning and had enough donations for two more days of meals. Here we are, three months later, and it’s just been amazing.”
Soon Wood was sharing the workload with fellow volunteers, in an effort that has benefitted locally-owned restaurants as much as the healthcare workers at Scripps.
Since that evening in December, Wood and company have hardly missed a day of deliveries, spending an average of $300 per order. All told, their unique food drive has raised $24,000, all of which has gone to buy meals for staff at Scripps.
Tax-deductible donations can still be made through Impact-Cubed, and the movement has spread beyond Scripps to include other local hospitals. It is now commonly known—and has been widely publicized—as “Feeding Our Frontline Heroes.”
“There has been a little bit of a learning curve,” Wood explained. “We quickly found out that the food needed to be something that was hand held that the staff could eat very quickly—stand up, pull their mask aside and eat. Pizzas, burritos, sandwiches, wraps all made sense. And it needed to be fairly small. So we now ask for each burrito or sandwich to be cut in half and individually wrapped.”
During a recent interview, Wood said she has struggled to put her reaction to the experience into words.
“It’s 360 degrees of unexpected goodness,” she said, adding that it has been “absolutely humbling” to witness others join the cause with support and eagerness to participate.
For the last three months, Wood has taken her social media followers along for the ride, often penning evocative reflections along with her shout-outs to local restaurants and volunteers.
“Day Eleven,” Wood posted on Dec. 22. “Twenty-four burritos from @mexicoviejo, and some French sweets from @isabelle_briens_frenchpastry.”
On Christmas Eve, she wrote, “In-N-Out burgers tonight, my friends. Sixty of them.”
In another post, she quoted her “hero and role model,” Lisa Nava, with whom Wood founded the nonprofit North County Justice Allies. It had been Nava’s idea to deliver pizzas to Scripps that night in December.
“One small gesture,” Wood quoted Nava as saying. One small post to the inter web. One small step out of comfort and into action. This is what changes the world. Without fan fare or a spotlight. Without grandiose dreams of recognition. Quietly, activism stirs in our hearts, and calls to the courageous who take action, big or small, to support those that need it.”