Restaurants in cities across the country are stepping up to offer free meals to children who rely on free or reduced-cost school lunches while schools are shut down due to coronavirus.
Throughout the United States, according to Hunger Facts, 22 million kids qualify for free or reduced-cost school lunches and breakfasts. Many of those children come from food-insecure families, and those school meals are often the only hot and nutritious meals those kids get.
Now, however, many children are missing out on those free meals, as their schools are shut down to stem the spread of coronavirus.
And across the country, local restaurants are stepping up to provide free food to those kids.
In Illinois, for example, where last week Governor J. B. Pritzker shut down all schools at least through the end of March, children who would otherwise have to do without their daily school lunch are finding relief from local restaurants.
Regional chain McAlister’s Deli is offering kids free sandwiches for as long as Illinois schools are closed, according to a Facebook post.
Similarly, Springfield’s upscale Mariah’s Steak House is offering kids free lunches as well, whether for takeout or dine-in.
In Tennessee, according to Knoxville’s WATE-TV, a consortium of area restaurants is teaming together to make sure that no children in Sevier county go without food during these difficult times.
In Ohio, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer, a local Latin American joint, a BBQ place, a pizza house, and multiple other businesses are promising to help out in whatever ways they can. Some have specific plans — such as a slice of cheese pizza, a piece of fruit, and a lemonade, pick-up only at one location. Others are vague, simply promising to “do what we can.”
But regardless, the collective attitude of the Cincinnati restaurant community seems to be, as Red Rose Jems Pizzeria in College Hill says, “it takes a village.”
This two- or three-week shutdown of schools that has led to hundreds of thousands of children potentially doing without nutritious food shines a light on the problem of how food-insecure kids get meals when there is no school.
As Hunger Facts points out, while those kids may get free or reduced-cost school lunches to supplement their nutrition, those children still have to eat when school is out, whether on the weekends or during the summer. In fact, so severe is the problem of food-insecure kids going without during summer break that the agency suggests that six in seven of those children don’t get the meals they need during the summer.