Those who are called to the kitchen know the power good food can have. It’s nourishment not only for the body, but also for the soul: both for the cook and the guest. In fact, food’s power to build bonds among families, neighbors, friends and the community are at the heart of why those who cook, whether at home or in a restaurant, do so.

Even—perhaps especially—in recent weeks, when physical distancing has changed the way people are eating, the power of food to build connections is on full display. It’s possible through the efforts of creative, caring folks like these who continue to reach out and strengthen person-to-person bonds, one meal at a time.

Taste of Texas (Houston, Texas)

Taste of Texas, the venerable Houston steakhouse, is sharing its best with healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic at the city’s Memorial Hermann Hospital. Emergency staff are enjoying expertly prepared filet mignon dinners, delivered by the Taste of Texas team in appreciation for their dedication and service to the community.

The restaurant is also showing love to customers. One pair, in particular, ordered a carry-out Date Night steak package, and mentioned it was in lieu of what would have been their wedding day. Nina Hendee, who owns Taste of Texas with her husband, Edd, decided to make the evening, and meal, one they’d never forget. Along with the steaks, she arranged for a custom floral bouquet, wedding cake, sparking wine—even a set of face masks!

Willy’s Mexicana Grill (Atlanta, Georgia)

The pandemic has had a profound effect on restaurants, and restaurant employees, across the nation, many of whom have lost wages or their jobs. Supporting its community is essential to Willy’s Mexicana Grill, with more than 30 locations in Georgia. They’ve set a goal to raise $2,500 per week to feed 200 unemployed restaurant workers via the Giving Kitchen, as well as 200 members of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta.

The Republic Grille (Spring, Texas)

In partnership with their distribution partners Sysco Houston and Buckhead Meats, The Republic Grille provided meals for the families of eight local fire stations. The meals, picked up in style by fire trucks and squad cars, featured top sirloin steaks expertly prepared by the Grille’s team.

“We all find ourselves in uncharted waters, and when faced with a crisis, it is merely an opportunity for you to do your best,” explained Terry McBurney, the restaurant’s founder and managing partner. “We wanted to do something to support the hard work and brave dedication of our local first responders during this pandemic.”

Perini Ranch (Buffalo Gap, Texas)

“Supporting our local community has never been more important,” said Tom and Lisa Perini, owners of the iconic Texas steakhouse. That’s why they donated $2,000 worth of premium steaks to their local food bank, and encouraged their customers to support On the Way Home Ministries.

Ortanique on the Mile (Coral Gables, Fla.)

Employees are the lifeblood of any restaurant. That’s why Chef Cindy Hutson introduced a special ribeye dish on her menu, all sales of which are going directly to financially support her team.

Meijer Inc. (Grand Rapids, Mich.)

Grocery stores have deep roots in the community and, as the pandemic shows, that’s especially true in challenging times. For Meijer stores across several Midwestern states, it’s an opportunity to expand upon its programs to give back and support local communities. Its signature Simply Give program, which has generated more than $50 million since 2008 for local food pantries, donated an additional $2.2 million in recent weeks.

The safety and health of its team and its shoppers remains at the center of its daily business, too. In addition to a wide range of safeguards in its stores, the retailer has implemented several employee support programs, including a relief program that helps associates with unexpected expenses related to the virus. They’ve also committed to hiring more team members, reaching out to local businesses who have had to furlough or cut staff.

Price Chopper (Kansas City, Mo.)

Demand has never been higher for groceries, or access to online shopping, and Price Chopper stores are responding while keeping health and safety top of mind. As the supply chain rebounds on several high-demand items, the team took a creative approach to sourcing items, including working “across the aisle” with those who typically source products for foodservice businesses. The chain also returned a quarter million dollars back to its community through a donation to Harvesters Community Food Network, helping those affected by the pandemic.

Winn-Dixie and Southeast Grocers (Jacksonville, Fla.)

It’s not every day that a major Hollywood filmmaker and actor picks up the tab for groceries. But for a group of seniors and high-risk shoppers at 29 Louisiana Winn-Dixie stores, that’s exactly what happened when Tyler Perry decided to spread some kindness.

Inspired by his example, Winn-Dixie’s parent company, Southeastern Grocers, decided to pay it forward by paying for the groceries of thousands of healthcare processions and first responders shopping in several stores across seven states.

“As a community, we are stronger together and will win together with kindness,” said Anthony Hucker, president and CEO. “Southeastern Grocers is dedicated to being there for the community when they need us the most, and we believe there is no better time than now.”

Amigos Foods (Houston, Texas)

Meat distributors are a vital part of the supply chain linking both grocers and restaurants, and their customers, with the protein they crave. To lend a hand directly to members of the community, Amigos Foods in Houston partnered with a local eatery to provide free lunches to students during the pandemic.