SOUTHWEST HARBOR – Red Sky Restaurant owners James and Elizabeth Lindquist had planned to begin their weekend dinners on Friday the 13th but a pandemic changed the course of their season opener.
After choosing to cancel the Friday dinner, the couple had lots of prepped food and wondered what to do with it. They called employee Jeannie Anderson to see if she thought providing lunches for children who were no longer in school during the day was a good idea.
And, that’s how the Red Sky “School’s Out” Lunch Project got started.
“We didn’t even think about the money part,” said Elizabeth Lindquist. “We just started doing it and it started to take off. Then, people started donating.
“For now, this just feels more important,” she added. “With the numbers we’ve been doing it feels like there’s a need.”
One meal choice is offered free of charge to anyone in the community who calls ahead to order and picks it up curbside from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. A meal can be safely delivered if someone is unable to pick it up.
“It really is for anybody and everybody,” said James Lindquist. “Lunches are doing great. We’re doing between 40 or 50 (meals), so far … It’s kid friendly but adult palatable.”
When the notice went out from the superintendent late Friday, March 13 that school would be out for two weeks, several restaurants stepped up to offer free meals for children who rely on the meal they get from school. Some restaurants have ended this service because they have either closed altogether or are doing a limited take-out only business.
Geddy’s Restaurant in Bar Harbor is offering limited items off their children’s menu, free of charge to students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, from 4-6 p.m. everyday.
“We were approached about it and we signed up for it,” said Ben Curtis who is a manager at Geddy’s. “Honestly, we haven’t really got a lot of people calling for it.”
Anderson, who waitresses at Red Sky during their season, works in the Pemetic Elementary School cafeteria. Another seasonal employee of the restaurant is Janet Adler who is a teacher at Tremont Consolidated School. Both women have worked to get the word out to students and families that lunch is available at the Clark Point Road restaurant.
“It’s been kind of cute when she writes notes on the boxes,” said James about Adler who delivers the food curbside to some of her students.
During their regular season, Red Sky is dinner only service with several choices of entrees. So far, for the “School’s Out” program they have offered shepherd’s pie, chicken fingers, fish sticks and spaghetti with meatballs or marinara only. The marinara is made with slow roasted tomatoes and fresh vegetables and the chicken tenders are breaded in crumbs from house-made bread.
“It’s totally different making only one dish,” said Elizabeth Lindquist. “It’s hard for us to make it simple … It still has our name on it.”
They are taking all the precautions necessary to do business these days.
“We’re always washing our hands all the time,” said Elizabeth Lindquist. “Now, I’m thinking of every little step … We run around and wipe down everything we might have touched at the end of the day.”
Not only does the kitchen staff, which consists of James, have to wear gloves, but Anderson wears them to box up the food and Adler dons them to make the curbside delivery.
“I went to do the garbage the other day and it was full to the top with gloves,” said James Lindquist. “Our supply line seems pretty good, except for toilet paper.”
In order to keep his costs reasonable to offer the free meal, James Lindquist is working with his distributor and taking advice from Anderson.
“She really is a lunch lady,” he said. “She knows what kids eat. Between the two of them, I have very good advisors.”
Unsure of exactly how long the restaurant will be able to offer the free meal, James Lindquist says recent monetary donations made to the program will help keep it going.
“It’s not what we normally do, but I kind of like it,” said James Lindquist. “If it raises peoples’ spirits, that’s good too.”