Owners of Bonfire Bar & Grille donated about 745 pounds of food to Meeker Area Food Shelf last week after the restaurant closed due to the coronavirus threat.
Gov. Tim Walz ordered restaurants and bars closed to the public, beginning March 17 through March 27, in an attempt to curb the further spread of the COVID-19 virus throughout Minnesota.
“With forced closure of the restaurants and bars, we had the opportunity of doing delivery or pickup,” Bonfire owner Dick Burgart said about why he decided to donate to the food shelf.
“But being located nine miles out in the country, we didn’t think there was a very viable alternative,” he continued. “So we had stuff that we thought would be spoiled or go bad between now and the time that we will be allowed to reopen, and so we decided we’d give it to the food shelf.”
Tanya Estrada, assistant director of Meeker Area Food Shelf, said that since March 16 the food shelf has seen donations increase.
“It is our March drive,” Estrada said. “So we usually would get more donations in March. But it’s not normal for restaurants to come to give us all their food like that — not at this extreme.
“It’s very nice, having all this food,” she continued. “I mean, we don’t have to worry about fresh stuff. Just in case we don’t get it from Walmart, because Walmart has been running low lately. But now that we have these donations, that stuff we don’t have to worry about for a little while.”
Meeker Area Food Shelf has changed its operations recently to reduce the risk of employees and customers contracting the virus, Estrada said.
“We’re actually putting our donations on quarantine for 48 hours,” Estrada said. “We don’t have our volunteers touch it for 48 hours, so it’s going be interesting what we’re going to have to do with this stuff. Because (COVID-19) can live on surfaces for like 12 hours, so we rather are on the safe side.”
Estrada said the food shelf is also having people call to make an appointment before coming in.
“So people call, we just ask for their names, and then we ask them what time they would, like, give them the specific times we have open, and we’re doing appointments every half an hour,” Estrada said, adding that people who come in the food shelf will be provided with gloves to wear.
Among the items Burgart, his granddaughter, Cecilia Vaillancourt, and helper Greg Zimmer brought to Meeker Area Food Shelf were loaves of bread, Texas toast, marble rye bread, frozen French fries, frozen pizza and more.
Burgart said there’s zero business at his restaurant, and it will remain that way until he can reopen again. On March 17, Burgart advised his 13 employees — three full-time and 10 part-time — to file for unemployment insurance.
“One of the difficulties with all of this is that, not just me,” he said, “but all the rest of the small businesses still have expenses that they have to meet in order to be able to reopen at some point. So it’ll be tough, and there’ll be a lot of businesses that won’t survive. That’s my estimation.”
Vaillancourt said a lot of people helped with the loading of the food in their vehicles, which made the delivery to the food shelf easy.
“There’s a lot of things happening in the world,” Vaillancourt said. “But, I think, just as a family, we really wanted to support others, and by doing this, we’re able to give food to many people that don’t have an opportunity to get it. And stores are kind of out-of-stock. We’re able to bring stuff here and maybe help a few of those families who don’t have the opportunity to go to the store and get that food.”