“I want to be very clear about this: A decision to close school has a magnitude of consequences that will change life in Minnesota as we’ve seen it operating. And I say that because we have to take in all of the considerations that will go into this.”
It was a strong opener from Gov. Tim Walz as he announced an executive order that will close Minnesota's charter and public K-12 schools beginning Wednesday, March 18 (though schools in Minneapolis will close as of Tuesday, and kids in St. Paul simply won't return from last week's strike).
“Closing schools is never an easy decision, but we need to make sure we have plans in place to educate and feed our kids regardless of what’s to come,” he continued.
As specifics of Walz’s provisions cohere in the days ahead, including exactly how students in need will access meals regularly provided by school districts, local restaurants have stepped up to fill an anticipated hunger gap created by these school closures.
- At any metro-wide location of Piada Italian Street Food (check website for addresses & phone) wrote, “Our hearts go out to the families in our communities whose lives have been disrupted by the school closures, especially those with K-12 students who depend on our school systems for lunch.” Starting ASAP, from 10:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays through April 3, they’ll be giving a free kids pasta with sauce, cheese and a fountain drink to students affected.
- Until March 31, Sarpino's Pizzeria locations across the state (check website for addresses & phone) will provide a free eight-inch pizza for children ages 5-18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekdays. Pick-up only.
- At Key's Cafe & Bakery (locations across the Twin Cities, call first), kids will be provided with a free takeout meal of their choice of a ham and cheese sandwich, macaroni and cheese, or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, served with fruit and veggies.
- Apple Valley’s Rascal’s Bar & Grill (7721 147th St W., Apple Valley, 952-431-7777) will have free bagged lunches including a choice of sandwich, apple sauce, chips and dessert between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. beginning Tuesday, March 17. Call between the above hours to arrange.
- Blaine’s Umi Sushi & Hibachi (10340 Baltimore St. NE, Blaine, 763-296-8004) wrote, “While we agree with [Governor Walz’s] decision, we also understand that it may present challenges to families that we serve.” Through the shutdown they will provide any school age child in need with a free kids’ size chicken lo mein and a fountain drink. “Just ask for a manager and we will take care of you.”
- Blaine’s Topper’s Pizza (10950 Club W Pkwy. NE #130, Blaine, 763-210-2227) wrote, “If you are concerned about being able to afford a lunch for your children, please stop by our location here in Blaine during lunch hours and we'll be happy to offer a small pizza at no charge, no other purchase necessary. Ask for a manager or shift-leader and they will make this happen.”
- Falcon Heights’ Eggroll Queen (1579b Hamline Ave. N., Falcon Heights, 651-644-9959) has you covered. “No purchase needed, no strings attached. Each child will receive a traditional egg roll, fruit, and fried rice. It will be packaged to go, and you can call it in, or stop by to pick up your order.”
- Lino Lakes' Trappers Bar and Grill (6810 Lake Dr., Lino Lakes, 651-784-7474) has a cooler full of bagged lunches ready for kiddos to feast upon, including includes a turkey or ham sandwich* (sandwich variety dependent upon product availability), chips and apple sauce and snack.
- Northeast Minneapolis’s Que Viet (2211 Johnson St. NE, Minneapolis, 612-781-4744) will provide free fried rice from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to any child who needs help with lunch starting this Wednesday. Owner Lauren Le told City Pages the restaurant is “taking things day by day” and despite the fickle nature of operating in general at the moment, intend to “run it until we need it, until school goes back."
- Also in northeast Minneapolis, Maya Cuisine (1840 Central Ave. NE, Minneapolis, 612-789-0775) announced Sunday night it wants to "help reduce some of the stress and worry some families may now be feeling." To that end, kids visiting Maya will get a free lunch of a cheese quesadilla, rice, and beans from Maya's northeast location.
- Minneapolis' Loring Bar & Restaurant (327 14th Ave. SE, Minneapolis, 612-378-4849) is offering a free lunch to kids 12 and under. Choose from the following: a turkey and cheese sandwich with chips, spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, or a cheese pizza – all served with dessert. All they ask is that you please call ahead.
Feeling inspired to look beyond the service industry for an organization that specializes in ensuring children have access to nutritious lunches every day? The Sheridan Story, based in Roseville, has assembled more than 330,000 meals in response to COVID-19 school closures, with a distribution range encompassing 30 school districts in Minnesota and western Wisconsin – including 30 percent of Minnesota’s children receiving free or reduced meal support at school. The nonprofit could use both volunteers to pack food and plain old donations to help guarantee their work as they navigate this "uncharted territory."
Did we miss a bar or restaurant providing meals for kids? We hope so! Let us know what we don't at [email protected]. Note: Given the rapidity of change on all fronts right now, we recommend checking with the above establishments before visiting in person.