Pizzerias Rally to Help the Food-Insecure While Schools Close Down

For many kids from low-income families, free lunches from local restaurants could be the only meal they eat all day.

Pizzerias around the country have begun offering free food and sack lunches to local children impacted by school shutdowns.

Many children from low-income families depend on breakfast and lunch programs provided by their schools at no cost or for a discounted rate. For some, it could be the only meal they eat all day. To help ensure these kids get fed, pizzerias like Gelsosomo’s Pizzeria in Crown Point, Indiana, and Lelulo’s Pizzeria in Plum, Pennsylvania, have jumped in to help.

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“There are some kids who get a great meal at school every day,” Gelsosomo’s posted on its Facebook page on Sunday, March 15. “With schools being canceled, that can be a big problem for some families. We want to stand in the gap. No strings attached, no judgment, and no questions asked. We’ve got to stand together as a community.”

Lelulo’s Pizzeria announced its free lunch program for all students on Friday, March 13. Lelulo’s said it would offer several options, including a slice of pizza, a side salad and a bottle of water; two slices and water; a 6-inch sub sandwich and water; chicken tenders and fries; and a large salad and water. Additionally, a local church donated kids-size milk cartons and packaged fruits and vegetables—such as apple slices and carrots—to be given to the children. Customers have also made financial donations, Lelulo’s said, to help offset the pizzeria’s costs.

Patyn McCune, owner of Lelulo’s, told TribLive that she qualified for free and discounted school lunches when she was a child. She became concerned when she learned Pennsylvania’s governor had ordered the state’s schools to close for two weeks. “My first thought was, ‘Oh, God, how are these kids going to eat?’” she said.

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Rocco’s Pizzeria, located in Youngwood, Pennsylvania, now offers free food to all kids under the age of 18. Options include a cheese or pepperoni slice, a tossed salad or chicken fingers and fries, with bottled water. “Some kids, they rely on those lunches that they do get for free [from their schools],” owner Rocco Pifferetti told TribLive.com. “If they look like they are under 18, we are going to feed them.”

In Rolesville, North Carolina, Pie-Zano’s Pizzeria said on March 15 it would offer free lunches—two slices of cheese pizza and a soda—to “any kid who is without a lunch” for the next two weeks from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. daily. “We had an amazing customer and his friends donate to start this great gesture,” Pie-Zano’s said in a Facebook post. “No kid should ever go hungry.”

Some states, including California, Massachusetts, Illinois, New York, Washington, Michigan and Ohio, have ordered restaurants to either reduce their hours or to stop offering dine-in service, limiting them to just delivery and carryout. Pizzerias offering free lunches to kids have said they will provide them as to-go orders.