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Emergency department staff at St. Joseph's Health Centre received a delivery of prepared meals from Santaguida Fine Foods on April 28 2020.Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The organizers: Aron Solomon, Peter Carayiannis, Matt Salvato, Aaron Emery

The project: Creating Sustain the Line

The reason: To help restaurants cope with the pandemic

When Aron Solomon and his family returned to Montreal from Berlin in March, he spent a couple of weeks in quarantine and began thinking about the impact the pandemic was having on local small businesses.

Mr. Solomon got in touch with his friend and business partner Peter Carayiannis. Both men are lawyers but they also run a watch-making business called Mission Watch. They started talking about the impact on restaurants in particular and came up with an idea of how to help food-service companies and health care workers at the same time. “We thought we could help keep restaurants alive by giving them a revenue stream. And we can buy these amazing health care workers lunch. So it’s a win-win,” Mr. Solomon recalled from his home in Montreal.

With the help of friends Aaron Emery, who runs a restaurant in Nova Scotia, and Matt Salvato, a marketing consultant in New Jersey, they launched Sustain the Line. The website matches restaurants with health care workers and donors. All donations go directly to the restaurant and Sustain the Line doesn’t handle any cash or charge a fee.

Mr. Solomon and Mr. Carayiannis keep track of hospitals looking for meals and restaurants that can provide the food. Once a donor steps forward, the team matches up a restaurant with a hospital and instructs the donor to make the contribution to the restaurant. The meals typically cost about $10 each to make, so a $100 donation would cover 10 meals for health care workers.

They’ve expanded the service to 17 cities across Canada and the United States and so far they’ve raised around $100,000. In Toronto alone, Sustain the Line has been working with 50 restaurants and provided meals to dozens of front-line health workers. Most of the donations have been for less than $1,000 and several donors have made multiple gifts for additional rounds of meals. “We have not yet turned down a hospital anywhere in North America [asking for meals],” Mr. Solomon added.

The group plans to keep the site going for as long as necessary and it has received support from Liberty Mutual Insurance, Ferring Pharmaceuticals and Lumira Ventures. “We’re going to be here to help as long as restaurants need the help and as long as people on the front line need a thank you and need some sustenance,” he said.

pwaldie@globeandmail.com