Blooming Grounds Coffeehouse is providing free lunches for children while they are out of school due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Owner, Amy Jo Marks, first got the idea of providing lunches for children after the governor announced school closures.
“The idea came about after a yoga class I was at with friends,” Marks said. “The governor had just announced the school closures and one of the women I was sitting with is a teacher. She made the comment that so many kids get free lunch and she worries about them.”
She said she used resources she already had with her business.
“As the day went on I thought ‘well I have extra bread that accidentally got ordered and a case of peanut butter and chips. I can do some lunches each day next week!’” Marks said.
The news that Blooming Grounds would be providing lunches started on Facebook.
“There were so many likes and shares,” Marks said. “[My friend] saw on FB all the likes and shares and said ‘we better get to the shop and start making some PB and jelly sandwiches. That was Sunday night and we whipped out about 80. That first week we made and delivered about 100 a day.”
The community of Winona has contributed to the program with donations.
“The first week we received donations from local businesses,” Marks said. “Then people started calling and asking if they could donate, dropping money in a bucket and mailing it in. This is how the program has been able to support itself, through all of the local help.”
The Winona school district recently started delivering lunches to students in the district.
“The school district did set up bussing for lunches, so the need dropped on our end for kids’ lunches, so we connected with the senior friendship center to also help out the older population as I still had money left from donations,” Marks said.
Marks said that she will keep the program running as long as there are still donations, volunteers, and the community is still in need.
The community of Winona has been affected with the ongoing pandemic. The program is a way to bring the community together.
“I think the lunches have really brought the community together during a time that is so out of our control, and we are all feeling the same sense of being unsteady,” Marks said. “This has given us and our volunteers a way to feel like we are helping in some way, relieving some anxiety by giving, and having some sense that we have control over something right now.”
The opinions expressed in this paper are not necessarily those of Winona State University, the Minnesota State Colleges and University system, or the Winona State University student body.