March 20, 2020 — As restaurants close or limit service in the Siuslaw region, partnerships are being formed between the Siuslaw School District, local food shares and shuttered restaurants to ensure the community stays fed during shutdowns caused by the spread of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19.
“1285 Restobar made a large donation of food supplies to help the district feed students and the community during our distribution runs,” said Siuslaw School District Superintendent Andrew Grzeskowiak. “The word is getting out and other restaurants are looking to see what they can donate.”
The donation comes after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered all restaurants to close dine-in services, allowing only takeout and delivery.
Restobar decided that it would be better for them to close this week, which left behind hundreds of pounds of food that was in danger of going to waste.
“We had all this extra produce that we didn’t want to go to waste,” said Restobar co-owner Kurt Hargens. “We heard about the school district and how they’re trying to feed all the kids for breakfast and lunch, so we thought that donating the food to the school would be ideal.”
Hargens also made sure that his laid-off employees received portions of food as well.
As far as closing the restaurant, Hargens said, “It’s hard to get your head wrapped around it. We don’t know if this is for four weeks or eight weeks. I’m sick to my stomach for my employees, more than anything. It’s tough. They live paycheck to paycheck. So we’re trying to do everything we can for them, getting them set up with unemployment insurance.”
As far as collecting insurance for 1285 Restobar, it’s unclear whether or not Hargens will receive payments. As reported in The Oregonian on March 18, many insurance carriers exclude pandemics and viral infections from coverage.
“We’re trying to talk to our insurance company about covering the closing, but they’re not even sure if it’s possible,” Hargens said. “We’re just treading water right now.”
Siuslaw School District was thankful for the restaurant’s donation.
“Very much thank Kurt and Restobar. We’re extremely appreciative of what they did,” said Siuslaw School Board President Guy Rosinbaum. “I would encourage any restaurant that’s thinking of closing to bring [food] by the school or our local food shares, as they have had a bit of a run and they’re really low on food, too.”
Florence Food Share experienced an increase of clients since the outbreak of COVID-19, and as a result, the “food pantry needs more food than ever,” the organization said in a press release. “Florence Food Share would appreciate any donations the public can provide.”
Needed items included canned meat, canned soup, canned vegetables, macaroni and cheese, peanut butter, flour, oats, potatoes, onions milk and eggs.
Mapleton Food Share is also seeking donations with a nearly identical list of supplies, adding canned fruit to the list.
As the district is receiving help from restaurants that have closed, they are attempting to help those restaurants that are trying to stay open.
“To take pressure off of our food service staff and try to help local businesses, the district will be buying takeout meals from local restaurants to feed staff and volunteers assisting on days we do food distribution,” Grzeskowiak said.
Once or twice a week, the district will buy lunch for its volunteers from local restaurants that have closed their doors to diners, but still deliver food or have it available for takeout. On Wednesday, Homegrown Public House came to the district with a van filled with food for the school volunteers.
“We know that these times are tight for them, and they’ve got people to pay as well,” Rosinbaum said. “This is one way that maybe we can help that a little bit and give back to those businesses in need.”
There is now a public Facebook group where restaurants and community members are posting food resources called “Florence Foods To Go!” People are posting hours and menu options, as well as indicating how they can help.
The page’s “about” section states, “This group is meant to make it easier to see all of our local restaurants and how they are dealing with the COVID-19. … Let’s all come together to support our local business and make it easier to do just that!”