Dr. Erica Kuhlmann is in the middle of the chaos. As the chief of staff of the pulmonary department and the ICU medical director at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul, she’s not just concerned about the patients – she has a hospital full of caregivers to worry about, too.
That’s when she reached out to, among other people, Robyn Frank. The Thumbs Cookies owner received a letter from Kuhlmann looking for snacks for her doctors and nurses.
“I called Erica and I started crying a minute into the phone call,” Frank said. “She said ‘My people can’t get groceries and need to get fed, but we have a budget.’ I said no. We want to give it to you. She was the one who inspired me.”
Frank reached out to the people she knows best: The Snack Pack Mafia. Kuhlmann’s inspiration led to the MN Hero Snack Pack, a group of 13 local food purveyors donating their individually packaged products to help feed the medical professionals on the front lines. Included in that group are Jewish-owned businesses Maddy & Maize, Isadore Nut Co., North Mallow, and ZoZos Sweet Treats.
“We have all of this product that we can’t sell because orders stopped coming in and our channels dried up,” Frank said. “Everyone has a story of how their business got disrupted.”
Kuhlmann, who TC Jewfolk tried to reach by email, was unavailable to comment for the story.
None of the food makers are looking to turn a profit on this endeavor, but are hoping people will consider donating to help them recoup their costs on making the goods.
After Kuhlmann’s pick up last week, the group started asking for donations to help cover their costs. So far more than $7,000 has been raised to help feed 2,800 people, including more than $2,000 on the first day of asking last Wednesday. A $25 donation can feed 10 health-care workers, and Frank said that they are getting requests from hundreds of more workers. This week they are sending out snacks for more than 500 this week, and are preparing a bigger week next week.
“All these people show their love in food,” said Frank. “This is what they know how to do. I think everyone has been affected by this and humbled. I have never seen this amazing generosity before. It’s unprecedented grief and generosity.”