A New Orleans-area hospital system is giving all of its nearly 10,000 employees gift cards to spend at local restaurants, as a way to thank both staff and restaurants that have fed hospital workers throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Dubbed “Operation Bon Appetit,” LCMC Health says the program will “infuse nearly $1 million” into local restaurants.
A huge number of New Orleans restaurants participated in various initiatives to provide free meals for frontline and hospital workers at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. One of the largest efforts was Feed the Frontline NOLA, which worked with 49 local restaurants to deliver more than 100,000 free meals to New Orleans hospitals from mid March through early May. Nearly $1 million in donations paid restaurants for their services and employed out-of-work local musicians and gig workers for the deliveries.
LCMC Health, which includes Children’s Hospital New Orleans, New Orleans East Hospital, Touro, University Medical Center, and West Jefferson Medical Center, will give full-time employees a $100 gift card and part-time and contract employees will receive a $50 card. LCMC’s director of public relations Marybeth Haskins told Eater that the gift cards are designed for redemption only in restaurants.
LCMC says the timing of the gift cards is meant to coincide with the historically late summer slowdown for New Orleans restaurants, similar to the idea behind the annual citywide Coolinary dining deals. Another local initiative meant to prop up restaurants while feeding those in need, the COVID-19 Meal Assistance Program, is set to expire September 4.
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