What do football players, airline workers, and a host of volunteers have in common? The unlikely combo is tackling the problems of a global pandemic in nearly a dozen cities.
Project Isaiah is a program that seeks to solve hunger-related problems brought on by the COVID-19 crisis. Michael Klein, a high-powered financial adviser to corporations and governments, is project chairman. Klein not only contributed the name (he appreciates passages from the Book of Isaiah). But his A-list contacts also helped land some remarkable partners for the project.
Early on, the group joined with Gate Gourmet, a top airline food service provider. Gate Gourmet’s expertise in pre-packaged meals made that company a good match for producing “food-to-go.”
In cities around the country, Project Isaiah works with local charities, ministries, community organizations, and other volunteer groups to distribute the food boxes where they’re needed most. So far, volunteers have handed out more than one million boxed meals in 11 cities. The meals allow people without means for take-out or delivery service to stay home during quarantine.
Beyond delivering food, Project Isaiah also helps save food service jobs. Klein points out that “during a crisis, problems must be solved in parallel.” Project Isaiah helps airline employees keep working even though many planes have stopped flying. So far, over 500 Gate Gourmet laborers still have a job to do.
The National Football League took the ball when David Baker, president and CEO of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, signed on. Baker calls Project Isaiah a “great example of people huddling up.”
Soon, several NFL Hall of Famers began donating funds for the project. Wide receiver Cris Carter was among the first. He grew up with six siblings and one parent. He often went hungry.
“I needed food when there wasn’t [a] pandemic,” says Carter. He played 15 seasons in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, and Miami Dolphins.
The pandemic, “would have destroyed my family,” he says. Now he wants to help others. “Being a Hall of Famer, it’s about being a leader on and off the field.”
Volunteer Devon Spurgeon runs Project Isaiah from her home in Chicago. Her complex job continues to expand to more cities and more people.
She relates a story about one special delivery to a shelter. “When our meals came, they had all the kids pretend that they were going on a plane,” Spurgeon says. “There was this total excitement about getting airplane food.”
She adds, “I’ll never look at an airplane meal the same way.”
If you pour out yourself for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday. — Isaiah 58:10