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“Cooking with heart” through the COVID-19 crisis

Victoria Craig Mar 27, 2020
A Portuguese Love Affair, a cafe in east London, during normal business hours. Victoria Craig/BBC

“Cooking with heart” through the COVID-19 crisis

Victoria Craig Mar 27, 2020
A Portuguese Love Affair, a cafe in east London, during normal business hours. Victoria Craig/BBC

On a well-traveled road next to a large park in east London stands a cafe usually overflowing with happy customers sipping red wine and snacking on pastéis de nata under strands of brightly-colored flags.

But with the city under lockdown, the restaurant, A Portuguese Love Affair, is now, like many businesses, closed for the foreseeable future.

Its co-owners, though, are determined not to let the community’s most vulnerable go without a hot meal, though.

Olga Cruchinho and Dina Martins decided to keep cooking as long as they can to provide meals to those in their community who can’t go out to do their shopping or are unable to cook their own meals. And, to keep a bit of cash flowing through the business, they’ve also kept the online store open so people can continue to purchase canned fish, wine and other Portuguese homewares.

Dina Martins, co-owner of a A Portuguese Love Affair. (Victoria Craig/BBC)

Martins explained how it all works on the global edition of Marketplace Morning Report.

Below is an edited version of her conversation with the BBC’s Victoria Craig.

Dina Martins: Our idea was really just to focus on people that might not be able to come out, [whether] they are infected or not, to help them out with very little things, including a warm meal. It feels good also to be able to do, in a moment like this, something for our neighbors. And I think we need to keep positive and help each other. That’s all this is all about.

Victoria Craig: How did you get the idea?

Martins: The idea comes with humanity. Being from Portugal, Olga and I have lots of Spanish and Italian friends. The coronavirus crisis is already worsening there and we know for a fact that we need to help each other. We need to stand together.

Craig: Are you fixing a certain meal every day? Or is it made to order? How are you deciding what to do?

Martins: We are planning to do these maybe just one or twice a week, depending what the government is allowing. Some people can order food to collect, and we also are working with some other friends on a scheme to deliver within the neighborhoods.

Craig: Your restaurant is closed now because of the lockdown restrictions. Are you making any money right now?

Martins We do orders from the website to be able to put a little bit of money aside. But I think really our worry right now is to keep everyone safe and fed. And that’s it. The money part, we’ll see later with our landlord what happens with having to meet our rent payments.

Craig: Are you worried about how long you might have to stay closed because of government restrictions? And what does that mean for your business?

Martins: Well, as a small business, it’s obviously a big worry, because it’s London and rents are not that cheap. We’ll have to see. We might have to stay closed for, I don’t know, a month, two months ⁠— being positive here. I also have employees and I worry for them. I worry for myself. But, I’ve started businesses up again so many times, so I’m pretty sure we can restart again with more energy and more love.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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