Rice Village is putting its restaurants to work to feed the frontline workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. Beginning Thursday, April 16, the district has launched Fare for Care, a meal donation campaign to feed workers at three Texas Medical Center hospitals: St. Luke, Methodist, and Memorial Hermann.
Rice Management Company has provided $50,000 in seed money for the effort — enough to fund 5,000 meals — and will match donations for the next 5,000 meals provided by members of the community, which could mean as many as 15,000 meals for emergency room and critical care personnel at the three hospitals.
Cecilia “Ceci” Arreola, investment manager for Rice Management Company, tells CultureMap she heard from restaurateurs in Rice Village who were concerned about the negative effect restrictions on dining would have on their businesses. At the same time, she noticed that hospitals in other parts of the country needed support as they assisted the influx of patients infected with COVID-19. The idea evolved into Fare for Care.
“[I thought] this could be a great way to help our restaurateurs and also help our first line workers in the Medical Center who are truly heroes,” Arreola says. “And also offer our community a way to help both of these groups. I was hearing from friends they were concerned about both of them; this offered an opportunity to [support both].”
One of the benefits of Fare for Care is that it allows Politan Row, the district’s food hall, to reopen. As Arreola notes, the experiential nature of dining in a food hall — and Politan’s Row only being open since November — combined to cause its operators to struggle with curbside service. It’s been closed for over three weeks.
“We thought it’s a great opportunity to let them cook again, which they were very excited about,” Arreola says. “One of them said it reminds them why they love t cook. They’re one of our tenants with the largest need.”
Rice Management has also included three of its other 2019 new arrivals in the program: salad restaurant Sweetgreen, sandwich concept Mendocino Farms, and Sixty Vines, the wine-fueled, Italian-inspired restaurant. According to Arreola, initiating Fare for Care is just one way Rice Village is helping its tenants.
“I will add that we’re working with each of them in different ways. We’ve always positioned ourselves as more than a landlord, truly a partner that wants their business to thrive,” she says. ‘We’re talking to each of them and making sure we can provide assistance as each of them needs it to ensure on the other side we’ll be a thriving district once again.”
Even after a couple of practice runs, the program has already received an enthusiastic response from both the restaurants and the healthcare workers, Arreola reports.
“The medical professionals are really happy,” she says. “I hope that our community joins us in becoming part of our Village and takes the opportunity to help out two essential parts of our community.”