As the coronavirus pandemic increasingly disrupted everyday life here in the past week, Outer Cape schools, community organizations, and businesses began looking for ways to make sure children and neighbors would have enough to eat. The problem at present seems to be money, not the supply chain.
Takeout From Schools
All of the Nauset public schools — including Eastham Elementary, Wellfleet Elementary, and the Nauset regional middle and high schools — along with the Provincetown Schools began offering free grab-and-go meal services on Tuesday this week. Students and their families can drive up and stay in their cars as bagged food is delivered to them by volunteers, thereby limiting opportunities for the coronavirus to spread. Truro’s plans are being finalized now.
Truro School Supt. Michael Gradone told the Independent on Monday that with schools closed across the state, “feeding the kids is our first, most immediate priority.” He says the school is looking to get all students 10 meals a week. “We have a lot of kids who depend on us for a couple meals a day,” he said.
Gradone estimated that 50 percent of Truro students receive free or reduced-price meals. Provincetown Schools Supt. Suzanne Scallion said about 35 percent of her students depend on school meals. But the schools’ meals programs are now available to all students whether or not they typically receive meals.
The Provincetown Schools are providing food to cover 12 meals a week, with pickups on Tuesdays and Fridays. Nauset schools provide breakfast and lunch daily, and students can visit any school in the Nauset system, including Wellfleet Elementary School, to pick up their meals. As of Tuesday, Truro Central School was still finalizing its grab-and-go meal program.
Community Steps Up
In Wellfleet, Trudy Vermehren, owner of the Fox & Crow Café, and her friend Bruce Bierhans came up with the idea to offer free breakfasts to students and put together an online fundraising campaign to pay for it.
“We were watching the news and thinking about ways we could help people in need,” Bierhans said. “We started with a goal of $3,000. By 10 that night, we had raised just short of $10,000. We are so overwhelmed and so grateful for the donations.”
The 246 Community Kitchen in Wellfleet is on pause while logistics are reconsidered for safety’s sake, said Janet Drohan, who runs the program at the Methodist Church. In the meantime, the group donated 20 dozen eggs, 30 pounds of bacon, 50 pounds of potatoes, melons, apples, oranges, and grapefruit to support the Fox & Crow effort. “That fits our mission,” Drohan said.
With such an outpouring of support from the community, the café is now offering meals for families or anyone in need. “If parents need a meal for their child, they might need one for themselves,” said Bierhans. He is looking at organizing delivery next.
Shoppers at the Stop & Shop in Provincetown may have noticed a shopping cart near checkout dedicated to donations for the Provincetown Schools. Scallion maintains a wish list online for the schools so shoppers can buy a few extra items and put them in the cart. “The cart has only been empty once,” she said. “People have been so generous.”
Friends Marketplace in Orleans is offering delivery or curbside pickup to minimize physical contact. A store employee told the Independent that customers can purchase their items online, and workers will pack the orders for delivery.
To those who might be concerned about spreading the virus through food, Mac Hay, an owner of Mac’s Seafood, said physical distancing is really the biggest challenge.
Restaurant employees already receive rigorous training in food hygiene, Hay said. “We know the basics of how to prevent transmission of disease when preparing food,” he said. “We’re being hypervigilant about it. There’s very little opportunity for transmission through food being infected.”
As usual, employees are disinfecting surfaces, cleaning up dirty areas, washing their hands frequently, and cooking food to temperatures at which the coronavirus cannot survive.
What’s harder to manage is what happens when customers come into a restaurant and interact with employees. “The risk is really from human to human contact,” Hay said.
Both Hay and Bierhans are concerned about the long-term effects of the pandemic on the local economy, already being felt here. After Gov. Charlie Baker ordered restaurants closed, Hay laid off servers at his restaurants.
“There’s no way to pay people,” he said. “We don’t have another alternative.” He is worried about the season ahead. “Can this business, or any business, survive a season without a summer?” Hay asked. “I have no idea about what that would do.”
Bierhans pointed out that fishermen rely on restaurants to sell their catch. “If there are no restaurants open, they’re not buying shellfish,” he said. “The long-term ramifications of people without income are really significant.”
Since, as Bierhans said, “food is the number one issue in a pandemic,” supporting families in need — whose sources of income may be cut off unexpectedly — is vital.
Schools and other organizations providing meals:
|Eddy Elementary||2298 Main Street, Brewster||Drive around to the back parking lot; pick-up behind the school||M-F, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.|
|Orleans Elementary||46 Eldredge Park Way, Orleans||Pick up at the front of school||M-F, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.|
|Eastham Elementary||200 Schoolhouse Road, Eastham||Enter at the back parking lot (parent drop-off location)||M-F, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.|
|Wellfleet Elementary||100 Lawrence Road, Wellfleet||Drive into the first parking lot entrance; pick-up at the cafeteria door||M-F, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.|
|Provincetown Schools||12 Winslow Street, Provincetown||Drive to the gym door in the Grace Hall parking lot||T & F, 12 p.m. – 2 p.m.
|Soup Kitchen in P’Town (SKIP)||20 Shank Painter Road, Provincetown||65 meals a day, first come first serve||M-F, 12:30 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.|
|Fox & Crow||6 Commercial Street, Wellfleet||Free meals for families||M-F, 8 a.m. – 10 a.m.|