School district, businesses providing free meals amid closures for coronavirus pandemic

photo by: Contributed photo

Volunteers on Tuesday, March, 17, 2020 at Schwegler Elementary School, 2201 Ousdahl Rd., stand ready to provide free lunch to students in need as schools are closed to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

With schools, businesses and other organizations shut down to help stop the spread of the COVID-19, some Lawrence residents — particularly schoolchildren — may have been left without the opportunity to eat a meal.

But the school district and many Lawrence businesses and organizations are stepping up for those students and anyone else who may be in need of a meal during the uncertain times caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“We know students may eat two meals a day with us during the school year and since school is out, it can be a real hardship on families to not have this service,” said Paula Murrish, executive director of district services for the Lawrence school district. “We are filling in the gap of providing meals to any families that may need it. The reason may be for economic hardship, lack of food availability or students not being able to … prepare meals.”

As the Journal-World previously reported, the Lawrence school district on Tuesday began offering free breakfast and lunch for pickup by children at five of its buildings around town.

Until Friday, March 27, the meals will be available weekdays from 10:30 a.m. until 1 p.m., while supplies last, at Hillcrest Elementary, 1045 Hilltop Drive; Kennedy Elementary School, 1605 Davis Road; Schwegler Elementary, 2201 Ousdahl Road; Billy Mills Middle School, 2734 Louisiana St.; and Liberty Memorial Central Middle School, 1400 Massachusetts St.

On Tuesday, 500 meals were provided through the school district, Murrish said. Comparatively, the school district has about 4,000 students who qualify for free or reduced lunch from the school.

Children can visit any site, regardless of school attendance, and the sites were chosen in accordance with guidelines from the United States Department of Agriculture, the district said.

The meals will be available to anyone under 18 years old. The district said no paperwork will be required, but children must be present to receive the breakfast and lunch sacks. District staff will prepare and distribute the meals, and no volunteers are currently needed.

In a news release Tuesday afternoon, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said families would receive a short survey Tuesday evening to determine which families need meals for their children but lack transportation to the meal sites.

Although the meal program was created in response to a two-week closure ordered by the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, it might need to be extended. On Tuesday, Gov. Laura Kelly ordered all Kansas schools closed for the remainder of the academic school year as part of the state’s response to stopping the spread of COVID-19. After Kelly’s order, the district said it “continues to discuss options for providing essential services, such as serving school meals.”

Elsewhere in Douglas County, local food bank Just Food has changed its distribution operation in order to limit in-person exposure to COVID-19, according to its website. The food bank on Tuesday began distributing pre-packaged boxes of groceries for pick up. Its service pantry is closed to shoppers until further notice.

Clients can pick up the boxes from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the food bank’s main location, 1000 E. 11th St.

Boxes will also be available for pickup at Lecompton’s United Methodist Church, 402 Elmore St, from 11 a.m. to noon Wednesday, and at Lawrence’s Ballard Center, 708 Elm Street, from 2-3 p.m. Wednesday.

photo by: Dylan Lysen

Free sack lunches sit in the doorway of Ladybird Diner, 721 Massachusetts St., on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. The restaurant is closed but offering free lunches to those who need a meal amid closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Lawrence businesses and organizations are also providing meals and food supplies:

• Ladybird Diner, 721 Massachusetts St. — Sack lunches 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday.

• Rodrock Chiropractic, 1440 Wakarusa Drive, Suite 400, Lawrence, and 412 Ames St., Baldwin City — Breakfast and lunch burritos from 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.

• Encore, 1007 Massachusetts St. — Fried rice from noon to 1 p.m. and 5-6 p.m. until further notice.

• Mae’s Meals, 1412 Fir St., Eudora — Cooler stocked full of brown bags for children in need of lunch. Monday through Friday 11 a.m.-1 p.m. One meal per child.

• D Dub’s, 10 W. Ninth St., Eudora — Free meal of burger, fries, fruit cup and bottled water for every child. One meal per child. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

• Archibowls, 125 East 10th St. — Free chili and rice bowl meals at the takeout window. Seven days a week from noon to 8 p.m.

• Homestead Kitchen & Bakery, 719 Eighth St., Baldwin City — Free breakfast and lunch for children and senior citizens.

• Sunrise Project, 1501 Learnard Ave., Suite E — Free supplies on the front porch. Call 785-865-1618 for delivery.

• Jubilee Cafe, 946 Vermont St. — Grab-and-go service on sidewalk. Coffee, water, juice, and prepackaged food items.

More coverage: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

As the pandemic continues, the Journal-World will be making coverage of COVID-19 available outside of the paywall on

Find all coverage of city, county and state responses to the virus at:

What to do if you think you may have COVID-19

Patients who have symptoms — difficulty breathing, cough and fever — should stay home, immediately isolate themselves from others and call their health care providers. Patients should never show up unannounced at a medical office or hospital. Instead, they should call ahead to explain their symptoms and give health care workers the ability to minimize the risk to others.

If patients do not have health care providers, they may call the Lawrence Douglas-County health department’s coronavirus line, 785-856-4343.

For updated information on the outbreak, Kansas residents can email or call 866-534-3463 (866-KDHEINF), which is staffed 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday; and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

More information can be found through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s website or the Lawrence-Douglas County Public Health website.


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