Local Restaurants Respond to School Closures with Free Lunches, Breakfast

Emily Kloostra, Staff Writer

With concerns about the disease caused by the new coronavirus, many states, including Illinois, have shut down schools for weeks. 

While some worry about becoming bored or missing a test, others are concerned about a much simpler need: food. 

After hearing about the school closures, many local Edwardsville restaurants jumped into action.

“We heard that some school kids’ main meals were the lunch they had at school,” Doc Richardson, owner of Doc’s Smokehouse, said. “We just wanted to help fill that void.”

Doc’s Smokehouse is providing a free chicken sandwich to those that call ahead and ask between the hours of 11 a.m. and noon. Richardson said that the support the community has given the restaurant for six years inspired him to give back.

“[I] just hope people know there are businesses out there that are always willing to help,” Richardson said. “Not just us, but many. We try to do what we can.”

Another local restaurant, Mike Shannon’s Grill is offering a grilled chicken breast, turkey sandwich or ham sandwich with sides to any school aged children each day between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“We have food and as long as we had (sic) food, no child should go hungry,” said Kimberly Beckham, assistant general manager at the restaurant. 

The decision to help was personal, according to Beckham.

“This is something that is very near and dear to Mike,” she said. “It was one of his first concerns when he learned about the schools closing.”

Beckham herself benefited from the free and reduced lunch program while she was in school, and said she appreciated the program.

“I don’t know what my family would have done without it so when I had the opportunity to pay it forward to others in need, it was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever made,” she said.

Kimberli Goodner, an owner of 222 Artisan Bakery in Edwardsville, said she worked in her school cafeteria to get free lunch. She said that experience taught her about the importance of a healthy meal, and inspired her to offer free baked oatmeal to school children during the closures from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

“We were trying to think of something that was healthier than a pastry, and [my son] mentioned our baked oatmeal,” Goodner said. “… We decided to set the oatmeal up in the containers at the side door.”

All people have to do to partake is walk in and grab a bag, she said. Starting on Wednesday, March 25, 222 Artisan is also handing out childrens’ books with the baked oatmeal. The initiative not only helps kids, but also local businesses, as Goodner purchased the books from the Afterwords Bookstore in Edwardsville.

“[The kids] are out of school, [and] may have gone through their books at home or are getting ready to,” Goodner said. “I don’t know, maybe we do it because we live in such a great, caring town and just want to do our part to give back.”