Lucy Childs, a Somerville High School student and daughter of Trina’s Starlite Lounge owner Josh Childs, understands that so many children rely on breakfast and lunch provided by their schools. That was enough inspiration for her father’s eatery to take action during the coronavirus spread, says managing partner Emma Hollander. Trina’s began distributing food for the public for free all day on March 16.
“We had to make the change,” says Hollander. “We knew that this wasn’t ever going to get any better unless somebody did something about it. We set up a long table in the front of the restaurant. There were only two people allowed in at a time. We cooked everything up and then boxed it up to go, labeled it, and then people just took as much or as little as they wanted.”
The restaurant’s management had realized that they had an excess of food and gave out meals to roughly 100 people, until they ran out, says Hollander. They handed out items that came straight off of their menu: macaroni and cheese, burgers, hot dogs, and cornbread. Many visitors had been regulars of the local haunt, and when they came to pick up their take out boxes, they check in with the staff to show their support.
For families in deep need, the restaurant agreed that they would drive out to visit them and provide them with the necessary food.
“We had a couple of people reach out to us, who said, ‘I have two small kids,’ or, ‘I just got laid off from my job and definitely wasn’t prepared for this,’” says Hollander. “We had a college student whose family wasn’t local, and she wasn’t able to get home. Harvard let her stay on campus because she had nowhere else to go. We drove over with milk, bread, cheese, and eggs, and we delivered that stuff personally.”
Trina’s Starlite Lounge is not the only restaurant that has taken measures to help the community.
Daddy Jones Bar, located in Magoun Square, began making deliveries to families in need, starting March 13. Owner Dimitra Murphy says that the pub has brought free meals to the houses of about 15 people, and have driven as far away as Cambridge and Hyde Park for deliveries.
Murphy says she received messages on Facebook describing situations like an elderly mother being unable to go shopping, requesting aid. Another woman explained that she had been laid off from a catering job and needed extra help putting food on the table. With a son in the Somerville public school system, Murphy says that she knew the importance of having access to meals.
Daddy Jones Bar has been prioritizing quantity when delivering food, delivering dishes outside their menu. The restaurant has been providing people with pulled chicken, rice, roasted vegetables, and baby carrots. They often drop their care packages off with a box of sanitary wipes, Murphy adds. The bar will continue to provide this service as long as people need help.
“We’re supposed to be social distancing, but through the distance, I feel like we’re closer than we’ve ever been,” says Murphy. “I think people are taking it seriously, but it’s the nature of Somerville that we do band together as a community. … This industry that we’re in has changed forever.”
The restaurants’ efforts have demonstrated that community can be shaped in uncertain times, says Murphy. Hollander echoes that the impact of the coronavirus is something that has been felt across the board, regardless of boundaries.
“The thing about this is, unlike other situations, it’s everybody’s problem,” says Hollander. “It’s not a class thing or a demographic thing. Nobody is used to this, and nobody has ever gone through this before. No matter what your career is, you’re going to be affected by it somehow. … The community totally came together. Everybody’s been asking how they can help.”
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