Response to COVID-19 has varied, with local restaurants cooking up a variety of ideas on how to continue to provide good food to patrons and keep staff gainfully employed, without jeopardizing public health efforts to slow the spread of the novel virus.
Although on any given day, food safety and hygiene are taken very seriously at the restaurants I visit, recent developments have put staff in overdrive, making them hyper-vigilant about sanitizing high-touch surfaces and returning to the sink constantly to wash hands and swap out bleach buckets.
One of the more dire unintended consequences of school closures in response to COVID-19 is the removal of a critical lifeline that students who experience food insecurity rely upon. With schools currently closed, kids who benefit from meals — often both breakfast and lunch provided to them at no or reduced cost — risk going without.
I’m very proud of the efforts being made by the Edmonds School District Food and Nutritional Services, which has acted quickly to provide free “Grab and Go” lunches at the following locations:
Lynndale Elementary 11-11:30 a.m.
Chase Lake Elementary 11-11:30 a.m.
College Place Elementary 11-11:30 a.m.
Mountlake Terrace Elementary 11-11:30 a.m.
Cedar Valley Elementary 11-11:30 a.m.
Community Life Church Lynnwood 11-11:15 a.m.
Spruce Park Elementary 11:30-11:45 a.m.
Meadowdale Community Church 12-12:15 p.m.
Oak Heights Elementary 12:15-12:30 p.m.
Martha Lake Elementary 12:45-1 p.m.
“We are still working on getting students to meals or meals to the students,” a district announcement says. “Please share this with the kids in your neighborhood.”
For additional information and updates visit www.edmonds.wednet.edu/families/family_support
Washington Kids in Transition is also deeply involved in the efforts to alleviate food security to the estimated 1,200 homeless kids in South Snohomish County who depend on shelters, transitional and temporary housing, tents and even cars for shelter. Their resources will also be stretched thin as they respond to school closures. Here’s a recent post from the organization:
“Many of our families work minimum wage jobs in the service industry with no ability to telecommute. Many are being sent home due to slow business or having their hours cut way back. This is going to affect their ability to pay rent and utilities in the coming weeks.
“We are asking our community to consider sending a direct donation to Washington Kids in Transition via our PayPal link so that we can be prepared to meet this need and prevent families from potentially losing their shelter, heat or electricity because of this economic slowdown.
“Right now we are also collecting gift cards for grocery stores that can be distributed to families. Kroger (Fred Meyer, QFC), Winco or Grocery Outlet are suggested options. Gift cards can be arranged to be dropped off at our office, please PM us on the FB page.”
Several local restaurants, faced with the prospect of keeping the staff employed and a desire to give back to the community, have developed some innovative solutions. Feed Me Hospitality’s Shubert Ho credits general manager Alex Marek for coming up with the Kids Eat Free program they’ve implemented at their four restaurants in Edmonds (Salt & Iron, Bar Dojo, Mar•ket, and San Kai).
Dubbed #ForTheKids, one could argue this is as much for the parents, desperately looking for something to do with young ones as schools and sports programs disappear.
Another brilliant idea implemented by Feed Me’s catering arm Shooby Doo Catering is their #Cater4TheKids initiative. The catering business has been particularly hard hit by social distancing.
What? A professional food service organization with nothing to do? Why not employ them to support the programs that aid in making food available to kids in need.
As they put it: “A $15 purchase can supply a child with a nutritious and delicious meal during these very uncertain times.” Every time they reach 50 meals purchased, they’ll deploy prepared food to programs like those mentioned earlier in this piece. You can buy lunch for a child in need here.
Steve Ono of Ono Poke has also reached out to the community, reminding us that Ono Poke always has a kids-eat-free option. From his Facebook feed:
“[For] all you parents that have to work from home and are now having to watch your kids — we’ve always offered free in-house kids veggie bowls. Many people don’t know that there are lots of kids who depend on school lunches for sustenance, and now that there’s no school, will be struggling to afford a meal. For them and their parents, remember that we have a Lokahi Wall. All they have to do is come in and redeem one of the stickers on the wall for a bowl and a drink. If you’d like to help and contribute to the Lokahi Wall, just ask one of our awesome staff about it. We’ll get through this together. Aloha!”
The Here and There food truck and Chef Dane Catering are offering “take and bake” entrées for pick up. Order 10 and Chef Dane will donate two additional meals to a family in need.
Claire’s Restaurant and Lounge is offering a “kids eat free” program Monday through Friday as well. One free kids meal is included with every adult entrée purchased.
On the social distancing front, I want to applaud another brilliant and simple solution being implemented in town: the decision by 190 Sunset to remove some of their tables. Creating a 6-foot bubble around yourself at all times isn’t always possible, but it might not be wise to cram yourself into a bar of strangers either. Reducing the number of tables in what is already a spacious restaurant, will reduce your chance of exposure.
Want to do even more to limit potential exposure? Be aware that almost every restaurant in town provides some sort of takeout option. Many also deliver.
The Edmonds Chamber of Commerce has recently begun compiling a list of some of our local eateries’ delivery and take-out options. While not yet a complete list, it is a nice-to-have source of information.
Pagliacci Pizza has even implemented a no-contact delivery option. By purchasing and tipping on the phone or website, your pizza can be delivered without fear of bursting your 6-foot bubble.
The Pancake Haus has taken the initiative to close this weekend to do a serious deep cleaning and hopes to reopen on Monday, March 16.
If you hear of any additional closures, programs to help those in need, or innovative ideas restaurants in town are implementing, feel free to add them to the comments below. As Steve Ono said, “We’ll get through this together!”
— By James Spangler
The furthest thing from a finicky eater, James Spangler insisted on trying everything on the table from the earliest age. At 13, he prepared Baked Alaska for an entire classroom and has had an insatiable appetite for good food ever since. He’d rather be in the kitchen cooking for the people he loves than doing just about anything.