Meals for schoolchildren seem to be one of the top priorities as the state continues to shut down over concerns about the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.
Along with Frederick County Public Schools serving free breakfast and lunch to any child under the age of 18 for the next two weeks, many local restaurants have joined the effort.
Chaps Pitt Beef in Westview Shopping Center is offering free meals to school-aged children at any time during operating hours.
Josh Verstandig, owner of the Frederick location of Chaps, said they wanted to do it for a simple reason.
“We’re part of the community. ... We are locally owned,” Verstandig said. “People are going to need a break, both financially and from their homes, and it’s the least we can do to try and help kids out that normally would be relying on school lunches.”
No purchase is necessary at Chaps to receive a free meal, Verstandig said. All they ask is that young children be accompanied by an adult and older students such as high schoolers who can transport themselves to Chaps show a school ID.
Options for food include a grilled cheese sandwich, a hot dog or chicken tenders, and each is served with a side of fries or macaroni and cheese.
Despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s announcement Monday morning that all restaurants and bars in the state close for in-house dining until further notice, Verstandig said they will continue offering takeout options so that children can have the free meals.
As of now, Verstandig said they plan to offer the meals for the next two weeks and will then reassess.
“With everything going on, we’ll play it by ear. If we are instructed to close overall, we obviously won’t be able to do it. And at the end of two weeks we will reassess if we’re going to continue moving forward based on whether schools are open,” he said.
Other Frederick County businesses offering free meals to schoolchildren include Canapes Catering and Thurmont Kountry Kitchen, both of which will continue offering carryout options for free meals.
Blessings in a Backpack (BIAB), a nonprofit that works to feed FCPS students over weekends and breaks, is also working to make sure food continues to be delivered to students in case the closure is extended.
Hermine Bernstein, program coordinator for the Frederick chapter of BIAB, said before children left school on Friday they were able to supply those in need with two weekends' worth of food as well as three days' worth of "Blizzard Bags" and emergency snack packs.
The Blizzard Bags that would normally be used for days when schools are closed due to snow had been sitting in stock since there have been no snow days this year.
"We are now in the process of gearing up to do another two weekends of food," Bernstein said.
The organization serves 3,100 kids on a regular basis across the county.
For two more weekends, Bernstein said they are working with national partners to purchase nonperishable "meal kits" that would consist of items such as cereal, stable-shelf cheese and meat sticks.
Now that schools are closed, Bernstein said the food will be delivered to each school where they serve children and families will be notified to pick it up outside the building.
Bernstein added that those who are looking to help should make monetary donations to BIAB as they are not accepting food donations at this time.