Chicago Public Schools temporarily stopped free meal services during protests on Monday, but local restaurants were quick to pick up the slack.

By Jelisa Castrodale
June 02, 2020
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On Monday, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) made the decision to suspend its free meal program for the day, due to what it called the "evolving nature of activity across the city" and the ongoing protests over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

The Chicago Tribune reports that CPS CEO Dr. Janice Jackson announced the one-day suspension of the "Grab and Go" meal program during a press conference, and said that she had made the decision "out of an abundance of caution" for CPS employees, for students, and for their families. The 300 meal pickup sites that are scattered throughout the city have served an estimated 13 million meals since school was canceled due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

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“We know our meal sites serve as a critical community resource and we are ready to resume this essential service for our families tomorrow following an assessment of ongoing activities,” Dr. Jackson said. "We support and stand with Chicagoans who are forcefully, yet peacefully, advocating for the rights of black and brown people."

The students who relied on meals from CPS did not go without on Monday, thanks to the efforts of neighborhood organizations, food pantries, churches, a local alderman, and what Block Club Chicago described as "a small group of people" who gave out canned goods and prepared foods for two hours in the afternoon.

In addition, several restaurants stepped up to offer free meals to local kids. Cesar's Killer Margaritas offered box lunches on Monday, and in a follow-up Facebook post, said that it would continue to give food to anyone who needed it on Tuesday as well. "Although CPS is resuming meal service, we will continue to feed those who are hungry. Many of you, our customers, have lost loved ones, homes, your grocery stores, businesses, livelihood," the restaurant wrote. "We are here for you. If you need a meal, no questions asked, come Today from 2-4pm. We ask for social distance and face masks. We will lift each other up!"

Mi Tocaya Antojeria also pledged to give away 350 meals to students on Monday. "We are a neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Family owned and operated. I am a Mexican-American woman, mother of two," it said in a Facebook post. "Almost every single one of our employees have experienced racism from the color of their skin, ethnic background multiple times including myself. We stand with our black sisters and brothers. We stand for equality and justice for ALL as I hope all Americans would as it is our constitutional right."

And Urban Grill Chicago not only fed any CPS student who came to the restaurant on Monday, but it received enough donations from the community that it will be feeding students all week. Any student who comes to the restaurant between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m. between now and Friday can choose between two free lunches.

CPS is also resuming its regularly scheduled meal pickups on Tuesday and, as of this writing, has not announced any additional interruptions to the service.