Samarth Tewari was just another hungry teenager in search of a greater variety of food to tickle his taste buds while stuck at home during COVID-19. His mother Geetika, a working professional, was wondering how to deal with the insatiable appetite of a growing teen, but nixed the idea of ordering from local restaurants.
“No way, it’s not safe due to COVID19,” she cautioned.
Samarth, a rising sophomore at Mission San Jose High School picked up the phone to find out why. He made a few calls to local restaurant owners as the pandemic got underway, and quickly learned that many restaurants had been forced to close or were struggling to stay open while trying to comply with the new rules.
Was there a solution that could resolve this foodie crisis? Samarth’s techie dad suggested he “Figure it out yourself and help folks in the process.”
Samarth began researching the safety concerns of the general public, as well as the revenue losses being experienced by local restaurants. Sifting through health inspection data provided by the Alameda County Health Department, he came up with FAQs on safety criteria based on CDC guidelines, to determine which restaurants would be considered “safest” to buy food from during the pandemic.
The result was eatsafefremont.org, a website that encouraged locals to safely eat at neighborhood restaurants by a process of elimination based on their food safety concerns.
As the website rolled out it received a remarkable 12,000 visits and over 2,200 unique individual users .
In yet another enterprising initiative, Samarth roped in his mother (a Fremont Bridge Rotarian) to support the local community by helping restaurants that have lost nearly 90% of their profits. Through fundraising efforts organized by Fremont Bridge Rotary and District 5170 of Rotary International, the project raised enough money to help locally owned restaurants pay their bills, retain their employees, and show support from the community during these difficult times.
Local restauranteurs are impressed. Gael Stewart who owns the popular Mission Coffee House in Fremont noted, “This $500 check came as a shock. This young man had been in touch, but I wasn’t sure if we will actually receive funds. It means a lot, a young kid doing so much to support his community and caring about a local coffee shop with support from the community who want our coffee shop to be open post COVID19.”
Cantaritos, a Mexican restaurant, Lovely Sweets and Snacks Indian Cuisine, and Dina’s Family restaurant which have served the Fremont community for decades, are delighted by community efforts to support their businesses.
Bridge Rotary has raised more than $3,000 and plans to continue to efforts to fundraise from local businesses and larger national corporations in the city.
Even as restaurants struggle to remain profitable as they juggle limited capacity seating in the face of potential second waves of the virus, Samarth and his supporters firmly believe that local restaurants are an integral part of their city. They are determined to continue backing locally owned restaurants so that Fremont doesn’t become an urban jungle of large chain restaurants.
Going forward, Samarth is partnering with local charitable organizations serving the homeless and the hungry, old age homes and women shelters, to provide these vulnerable populations with fresh, healthy and nutritious food from local restaurants. Samarth plans to expand the mission of his project by giving bulk orders to restaurants and feeding needy or at risk populations in the community.