LAWRENCE, Kan. — Lawrence Public Schools is getting creative in the way the district feed its students. Now, those efforts involve local restaurants.
"I think it's good to see the community banding together to help with this COVID-19 crisis," said Vance Schwyhart, who was picking up lunches with grandchildren on Wednesday.
In front of Hillcrest Elementary School, there were hundreds of brown paper bags filled with food.
Giving meals to Lawrence families almost wasn't a possibility after the district announced last week that it was suspending meal service due to safety reasons.
"Hearing from neighboring districts where their kitchen staff workers were contracted with coronavirus ... It kind of puts you in a difficult situation," Superintendent Dr. Anthony Lewis said.
But then, the district got a call from the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce with an idea.
"In a matter of one business day, here we are with 10 restaurants that stepped up and pitched in to fill the gap for us," Lewis said.
The local restaurants and businesses participating are: 23rd Street Brewery, Big Mill, Biggs BBQ, Cheesy Street, Fields & Ivy Brewery, Global Cafe, J. Wilson’s, Johnny’s West, Ramen Bowls and Six Mile Chop House. Hy-Vee will provide milk at cost. Any leftovers from the meal distribution sites will be donated to the food bank Just Food.
"This has been a true collective effort. It's kind of like a family, when one brother is down, the other brother or sister steps up," Lewis said. "That is what has happened."
Caitlin Franz-Quinn with Cheesy Street dropped off bags of grilled cheeses for students on Wednesday.
"The whole time this morning while we were making food we were like, they are going to be so excited," Franz-Quinn said.
She said it was an easy decision to help feed these families.
"We made 300 meals in 150 bags. So, we just bagged them together," Franz-Quinn said.
But this is a win for her as well.
"We were able to get some federal reimbursement from that, but a large percentage of the money will come from our local community and donations," Franz-Quinn said.
FEMA is also helping to fund the program.
Franz-Quinn said making these meals is keeping her grilled cheese restaurant going.
"The boys were super happy to be back," Franz-Quinn said. "We are going stir crazy sitting at home and yeah, it's great. We have got a lot extra work to do."
Families that picked up the meals on Wednesday said this is the ultimate blessing in a dark time.
"Any money that we can save on food is always awesome," mother Ariel Miner said.
"It's really a great thing to do. It's really something that the kids will enjoy and something the parents will need as this thing goes along," Schwyhart said.
The school district hopes to start making meals again as soon as it's safe to do so.
If you would like to donate to help fund these meals, click here.