David Guas, Arlington chef and small business owner, first got the idea to offer free meals to needy school kids and their families during the school closure “because it was just me panicking about what to do with my team. Seventy percent of them have kids at Key Elementary where they get free or reduced price lunches.”
He knew the schools were closing on Friday and wondered what these families would do on Monday. “What will help these kids in the special program?”
So Guas had an idea and he called Real Food for Kids which he says is already a non-profit. “All I know how to do is cook beans.” They paired up with Fruitful Planet to provide free lunches to families every school day in front of Bayou Bakery, Coffee bar and Eatery, a block from Courthouse, between 10 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
“Some walk up and some drive up curbside, and we ask them how many meals they need. No questions asked.
“Then we hand them the vegetarian meals in a hinged clamshell container and they pick up a bag of bananas, apples or oranges on a table nearby from Real Food for Kids and Fruitful Planet.” He says the meals will be plant-based to be compatible with a range of dietary and religious restrictions.
Monday, March 16 was used to set up and plan. “Tuesday we served about 70 meals of red beans and rice, with about 75 on Wednesday. By Thursday it had grown to 125 meals.
“On Wednesday we had hot food left over and called the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). Within 20 minutes they had a truck here to pick up 100 meals for families served by AFAC.”
Guas serves these meals for families curbside outside Bayou Bakery while at the same time operating a grab-and-go for his New Orleans-themed cafe on the fenced patio outside the restaurant. Guas says the restaurant currently offers a smaller menu than usual, with gumbo, deviled eggs, mac and cheese and six sandwiches, as well as beignets, breakfast sandwiches and coffee for breakfast.
But sales are down 85 percent, so Guas has had to cut back hours for his employees and is punching out the biscuits and making the beignets himself at 5 a.m. He is rotating three people on his staff to give them 15-18 hours each.
“We have some phone orders and some foot traffic, a little bit of hope.”