• Antonia Robinson

Even As COVID-19 Impacted Their Industry, Charlotte Restaurants Swiftly Ensured Meals For Children

Updated: Aug 17


As many Americans settle into their second full week of self-isolation, social distancing, and government mandated quarantine in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, low income families that relied on public schools and government assistance for basic necessities like food and child care for their kids become an immediate priority across the nation. Since the passing of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in1946 by President Truman, the program has fed over seven million children a year, by providing free or low cost healthy balanced meals to students in need. According to Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools’ (CMS) 2018-2019 school year data, 51% of its students qualify for their free lunch program—leaving 75,000 students countywide who’s dietary needs are not being met during this COVID-19 crisis. According to Governor Roy Cooper, during his latest press conference on March 23rd, 2020, North Carolina schools will remain closed until mid-May—leaving parents with six more weeks to determine how to provide extra meals for their children, on the brink of an unprecedented economic recession. Fortunately in Charlotte, a few neighborhood heroes quickly stepped in to fill the void for those students and families mostly affected by school closures. Cousins and co-owners of Cuzzo's Cuisine, Anglee Brown and Chef Andarrio Johnson, announced on March 17th, 2020, that they would feed children 12 years old and under for free during school shutdowns. They were one of the first restaurants to respond to the number of worried households who would not be able to substitute the meals that schools provided for their children.

Photo courtesy of Cuzzo's Cuisine/Instagram

Cuzzos’ partnership with the Justin Sterling Real Estate team has strengthened their coalition and doubled the amount of children they were able to feed in less than one week. Together they have fed over 350 kids since March 15, and are looking to reach even more. While many Charlotte restaurants have been forced to shut down due to the economic impact of COVID-19, Cuzzo’s, like other businesses, have altered their operation by offering call ahead and online ordering, as well as delivery options through DoorDash, Postmates and Menufy. Cuzzo’s Cuisine’s operating hours remain Tuesday-Saturday from 11am- 8pm. Among the amalgam of eateries attempting to ease the pain of struggling parents to provide as the COVID-19 crisis continues is, The Loyalist Market. Normally specializing in charcuterie and craft cheese sandwiches, this Charlotte sandwich shop has initiated their sandwich program for North Carolina youth who receive free or reduced lunch. Reports from their Instagram account shows they have not only helped feed lots of youngsters, but they've also begun to organize with other local restaurants. Founder Christoper Sottile is utilizing his network of restaurateurs to garner their assistance as the economy continues to spiral downwards. (See participating Charlotte restaurants below)

Photo courtesy of The Loyalist Market/Instagram

Within 12 hours of his announcement, Sottile was able to raise enough money to feed at least 250 children a day, according to a post on The Loyalist Market’s Instagram feed. With layoffs and furloughs continuing to rise, and as historic amounts of unemployment claims are being reported, this effort by Sottile and his partners will ease the strain on many parents who continue looking for creative ways to make what is left of their remaining paychecks stretch. Another Charlotte staple, Mr. Charles Chicken & Fish, was also among the first restaurants to announce they would be providing meals to children during the school closures in Mecklenburg county. Mr. Charles Chicken & Fish has been operating in the Charlotte area for over 25 years. Along with their signature fish and chicken platters, Mr. Charles’ also has an array of southern favorites for the whole family. With two locations in Charlotte on Statesville Road, and Harrisburg, Mr. Charles’ is allotting one meal per child a day from 11am to 1pm.

Photo courtesy of Mr. Charles Chicken & Fish/Instagram Health officials and government experts have little to no estimate on how long America will be facing the COVID-19 crisis. According to the latest CNN report, a quarter of the states in the U.S have issued strict stay at home mandates, including California, Ohio and New York, who hold about 39% of the U.S population. Among the current socioeconomic predicament most middle and lower class families are in, it is expected to worsen as officials warn we are only 10% through the dilemma. Throughout all of this, small businesses in Charlotte such as Cuzzo's Cuisine, The Loyalist Market, Mr. Charles Chicken & Fish, and many others, have acted swiftly to ensure meals for those in need in this time of crisis. As many small businesses in Charlotte continue to feel the economic impact of COVID-19, while continuing to make themselves available to help others, it is imperative that we as Charlotte citizens also do our part in the fight through donations, volunteering, and sharing this information to those who are in need.

Follow these business on Instagram to stay up to date on their efforts and ways that you can help contribute to said efforts, so we can ensure that the children and families in need are getting the dietary help they need for the forseable future. @Cuzzoscuisine, @Theloyalistmarket, @Mrcharleschicken2

Antonia Robinson is a staff writer at TTT Media, where she covers music, art, and culture. Connect on her Twitter and Instagram

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