St. Louis has seen a number of efforts to feed those on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, but a new project is using a celebration of St. Louis' Asian American community as an opportunity to give back.
Thirteen St. Louis restaurants have teamed up with the Chinese Education and Culture Center, Asian American Chamber of Commerce and the Chinese Service Center to provide meals to healthcare workers and first responders this weekend. Volunteer outreach director for the project Min Liu says that some of the restaurants helped to donate over 1,500 meals to frontline workers in the month of April, but this weekend's effort will attempt to donate an additional 1,000 meals as a way to celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
The participating restaurants are Akar, Asian Kitchen Korean Cuisine, Fork & Stix, Joy Luck, Little Saigon, Mai Lee, Mandarin House, Nobu, Nudo House, Szechuan Cuisine, Wei Hong, Wonton King and Nami Ramen. Donors contribute money so that the restaurants can afford to produce the meals and keep their kitchens open.
Liu says that although the restaurants are of different backgrounds and cuisines – Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Korean, Vietnamese – they all wanted to come together because they share a similar belief in the community that food creates.
"No matter what language you speak, I think you're very likely to see that people connect and communicate with food," Liu says.
The partner organizations within the Chinese American community in St. Louis have also raised over $120,000 to donate masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals and clinics in the area amid the COVID-19 crisis. Other funding partners include the Missouri Asian American Bar Association, students and families at John Burroughs School and MICDS, Children’s Hope International, Edward Jones, Karuna Beverages, St. Louis Chinese American News, the St. Louis-Nanjing Sister Cities Committee, the Beijing Association of Missouri and GL International Realty.
Liu says that the effort to donate meals in honor of the heritage month will hopefully be continued in future years. Although it may not be for frontline workers after COVID-19 passes, meals might instead go to a group like teachers or low-income students.
"We want this to be the beginning of a wonderful tradition for St. Louis," Liu says.
Editor's note: This post has been updated to include additional funding partners and how meals are funded.