Before area schools had a chance to figure out how to feed the kids who rely on free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs, Port City Sandwich Shop in Newburyport was all over social media, offering free lunch to kids in need from anywhere in the area—they’ve served sandwiches to kids from New Hampshire as well as around the North Shore.
“My wife grew up in Malden,” says Tyke Karopoulos, who owns the shop with his wife Jamie, and she immediately recognized the need in the community. So they put out a menu of four sandwiches—grilled cheese, turkey, peanut butter or ham and cheese—each served with a bag of chips and a bottle of water. Anyone in need in the community can call in an order, then pick it up. They did twenty lunches on Monday, ten on Tuesday, and seven on Wednesday.
“We’ve had people come out of the woodwork, offering to pay for it, helping us make sandwiches, but up to now, we’ve declined,” Karopoulos says.
Similarly, many local businesses that have closed have donated fresh food to places in need. When Ashley Bush, owner of Buttermilk Baking Co. in Newburyport decided to close her doors yesterday, she opened her shop first to the entire community, offering a “pay-what-you-can” model, and giving away eggs and dairy that she wouldn’t be needing. While she repeatedly reminded people to pay any price, most people paid full price, if not more, for the last cookies, muffins, and brownies she’ll be baking for a while.
At Joppa Fine Foods in Newburyport, they have started offering breakfast sandwiches to families in need. “Joppa has been a part of the Newburyport community for many years—and now during this difficult time, we’d like to help local kids and families affected by the coronavirus pandemic,” they posted on their Facebook page. “If your child is part of the reduced lunch program or your family is in need because of this crisis, please reach out. We’d like to provide healthy, filling breakfast sandwiches for the next couple of weeks as one small way to get you through the day.”
While local schools have stepped up, and most communities have bagged lunches available, Karopoulos stands ready to continue to provide lunches. “We’re not going to say no to anybody,” he says.