Food For Frontliners: bringing smiles to frontliner faces


Courtesy Shivani Mandalaparthi

Rising senior Shivani Mandalaparthi, Class of 2020 graduate Allison Lee, and rising senior Jackson Van Vooren volunteer to purchase and deliver meals to frontliners working locally and at hospitals beyond the Bay Area. By partnering with various small businesses and franchises, they have been able to donate hundreds of meals and cards in cooperation with the rest of the Food For Frontliners (FFF) team.

In the wake of a global pandemic, high schoolers have stepped up in support of their local hospitals — some more unconventionally than others. Amidst mask drives and fundraisers, some students have found another way of boosting morale: donating food and handwritten cards to health professionals.

In April, rising senior Shivani Mandalaparthi founded Food For Frontliners (FFF), recruiting Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School students for the leadership team. Since May, they have provided a total of 185 meals to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Valley Medical Center and the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Palo Alto.

Hospitals can contact FFF with an order, and FFF partners with a local business to purchase the requested amount of food. The food distribution team then personally delivers the food to the hospital. FFF has worked with Main Street Bagels in Los Altos and Subway in Mountain View, and the organization plans to reach out to Black-owned businesses and expand their meal options in the future.

After being approached by Sequoia Hospital and the Good Samaritan, the team is set to donate a new total of 270 meals and are excited to help a larger collective of medical communities beyond the local Bay Area.

“We’ve just kept going upward and growing, which has motivated us to continue working to help as many people as we can,” FFF Head of Fundraising rising senior Jackson Van Vooren said.

The growing organization blossomed from a simple idea: After seeing overworked frontliners on the news, Shivani was compelled to express her gratitude for all their endless contributions.

The team initially considered donating general supplies, but upon noticing the already large number of personal protective equipment donations, they decided on their own unique approach.

“When I saw frontliners on TV, they looked exhausted,” Shivani said. “They couldn’t even stand up. Food is the most important thing to a person’s body and without it, you can’t sustain yourself. It’s very crucial to healthcare workers and their well-being.”

When they started their GoFundMe in April, the team didn’t get as many donations as they had hoped and fell short of their $2,000 goal. The lack of community support disheartened the four.

“Other fundraisers were having much more progress than ours,” FFF Financial Coordinator Class of 2020 graduate Allison Lee said. “It was frustrating not having enough funds or making as much progress as we had envisioned in the beginning, but it’s been a learning process.” For additional funding, the team began selling handmade bracelets and wristbands. All of the proceeds contribute to the cost of purchasing and delivering meals.

Gradually, donations built up and they reached their first milestone — their first donation to the Palo Alto Medical Foundation on Thursday, May 28.

“When I met the Director of the Respiratory Clinic at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, even though she was wearing a mask, I could see happiness in her eyes,” Shivani said. “And I thought, we have to continue. This is what I set my goal out to be: to make every single local frontliner, if possible, smile and love what they’re doing.”

Through the increasing number of deliveries, Shivani, Jackson and Allison particularly enjoy forging personal connections with those they deliver to.

“Getting to have conversations with the people who we were delivering to shed light on what their situations were like,” Allison said. “You can see the real impact of your work and how your contributions are making people’s lives better. It’s really inspiring to see how much we can truly do to help.”