Help where it’s needed: How grassroots organizations are making a difference

Two Wharton MBA students launched a local branch of Off Their Plate, which provides free meals to frontline medical workers during the pandemic.

In the wake of the global pandemic, Wharton MBA students Ellen Halle and Susanna Hamilton have launched the Philadelphia branch of Off Their Plate, to help workers directly in their community who are at ground zero of the health care response to COVID-19. Off Their Plate partners with restaurants to make nutritious, free meals for frontline medical workers. Entirely funded by donations, half of the money received is used to pay restaurant shift employees for their work, while the rest is used to cover the price of meals and transportation. Each meal costs about $10.

One of the founders of Off Their Plate wearing a face mask holding a box full of meals

“The idea is that this is not going to be a sustainable business enterprise in the long term, but rather something we can do until it’s no longer needed,” Hamilton says.

“We’re the largest American city without a public hospital, and one in four Philadelphians has an income below the poverty line, so we have to think about how the virus is disproportionately affecting communities that are less privileged than ours,” says Hamilton. “We feel like it’s important to stay here on the ground for the foreseeable future, and we’re keeping close track of the curves and trying to deliver meals in accordance with that.”

Halle said the meals may seem like a “nice to have” at a superficial glance, but the organization is making sure the food gets to the less visible frontline workers—the janitors, security personnel, and environmental services workers who are just as important in the pandemic fight, yet make far less money than the doctors and nurses. The free meals are in keeping with the organization’s namesake, taking one more worry “off the plate” of those who have so much to worry about these days.

Read more at Knowledge@Wharton.