‘Made a true community’: Cookbook store shows up weekly for frontline workers

SEATTLE — The fresh meals arrive at the same spot weekly outside Harborview Medical Center. Thirty of them, delivered four days a week since March for frontline health workers, by Fremont cookbook store Book Larder, which was forced to halt in-person classes and events because of the pandemic.

"Left us in a tough position where we had to grapple with the idea financially that we're not going to be able to do this for a long time,” said Book Larder owner Lara Hamilton. “I wanted to keep Amanda on staff, continue to feed people, and she had the great idea.”

"I was very scared. I have a loved who was working on the front lines and I thought, ‘OK, what is my gift?’” said Book Larder Culinary Director Amanda Coba. “What’s sort of the most high-impact place I can lend my gift?”

Coba connected with Harborview Medical Center and said she turned to the community the cookbook store has built over the years to answer her call to action.

"Our community donated over 2,000 meals, financially, the ability for us to make over 2,000 meals,” said Coba. “So this project is ours, but it’s their’s.”

The meals are made fresh, hours earlier at Book Larder, which said online sales and front-door pickup have been critical with its in-store classes and events paused. The weekly hand-offs outside Harborview have turned strangers into friends and Dr. Katherine Alberty, an internal medicine resident physician, said it’s made an impact.

“It hasn’t been easy,” said Alberty. “ We are working long hours and it makes such a difference.”

“When it’s 2 a.m. and you’ve been running on six hours of sleep and all of a sudden you have something that says this was brought to you by a book shop, and, ‘Oh, hey, by the way, we’ve been making meals for you and thinking about you,’” said resident physician Dr. Ali Ansary. “You can’t overlook the importance of what that does to build community."

Book Larder said it plans to deliver meals to the hospital through next week and will donate any remaining funds to Food Lifeline.

"It’s about purpose and it’s about community,” said Coba. “And it’s about the fact that we have made a true community here.”