Maddie Taylor ’14 drove her white Suburu to restaurants all over the city, picking up stacks of takeout meals and promptly delivering them to weary frontline hospital staff.
The idea was simple: Pittsburgh restaurants were in need of hungry patrons, while health care workers were in need of a good meal. Why not raise money to help struggling restaurants while serving food to those taking care of COVID-19 patients?
In March, Maddie Taylor, her sister Claire Taylor, a current senior at Shady Side Academy, and Souki Eljamri, Maddie’s friend, started Feeding the Frontline PGH.
Maddie, a graduate of Penn State, and Eljamri, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, met during a Fulbright U.S. Student grant in Malaysia. Other Fulbright colleagues have started similar programs in other cities.
“Pittsburgh is such a foodie town,” Maddie said. “I know everyone in my circle was sad they couldn’t go to their favorite restaurant. This was a great way to put some cash flow into the restaurant economy and give delicious foods to health care workers.”
Initially, they raised money through GoFundMe and Venmo, soliciting donations from the public. Maddie figured she would volunteer her time to the effort for a month or two.
But as spring turned to summer and the pandemic dragged on, demand only grew. Feeding the Frontline PGH received funding from a national nonprofit called Off the Plate to provide meals to employees at hospitals as well as a methadone clinic and nonprofits serving black communities.
Restaurants took over the delivery process, coordinated by the young women. Participating restaurants included The Vandal in Lawrenceville, Bahn Mi & Ti in Lawrenceville, Cilantro & Ajo, a Venezuelan restaurant in the South Side, Square Cafe in East Liberty, and 9 Cafe in Wilkinsburg. By June, they were delivering about 1,500 meals a week to various organizations.
The Taylor sisters knew firsthand from their parents, both doctors, how important it was to help out during the pandemic. Their mother, Dr. Sandy Sauereisen ’84, is the medical director of UPMC St. Margaret Lawrenceville Family Health Center; and their father, Dr. Mark Taylor, is an anesthesiologist. “Both my parents are front-line workers who worked full time through all of this. They’ve been very inspiring,” said Maddie.
In August, Feed the Frontline PGH stopped operating as funding ran out and the three founders went back to school. Maddie, 24, has started a master’s degree program in public health at John Hopkins University.
Looking back, she was happy to have done her part to help people during the pandemic. “I’ve had multiple restaurant owners tell us they would have gone under if it weren’t for Feeding the Frontline.”