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St. Louis chef turning donations into meals for students who might go without food due to coronavirus closures

Today was the first day the lunches were available for pickup at three distribution hubs around the city; next week, that will expand to seven hubs.

ST. LOUIS — Staying home from school is a dream for a lot of kids. But some students and their families are facing an especially hard time as more and more schools in the Greater St. Louis area close because of coronavirus concerns.

Chef Tai Davis — formerly Executive Pastry Chef at The Chocolate Pig and now head of his own Alchemy Bakery — has made it his mission to connect donations, volunteers, and families to make sure students don’t go hungry.

“I own a bakery, and everything’s really slow right now because nobody’s traveling. There’s not a lot of foot traffic,” Davis says. “So anything I can do to contribute, helping out society, I’m here for.”

Davis published a post on Facebook Saturday night, asking people to get in contact with him “if your kids receive free lunch at school and you don’t have the means to provide that for them during the time they are off.” 

He offered to step in and prepare free lunches through an initiative he’s calling STL BOXED LUNCHES. Davis had planned to start small, providing lunch to about 25 kids, but the response from parents and even school districts has brought the number closer to 1500 students.

Contributions to the project have also grown exponentially. Several St. Louis-based companies, including Companion Bakery and Natural Tableware, have donated food and packaging for the lunches. Donations have also poured in from community members.

“Once I found out there was more of a need for it, I started reaching out to more and more people. I started a fundraiser, and in 45 minutes, we raised almost $4,000, which was absolutely amazing,” Davis says.

He and a limited number of volunteers are preparing and bagging a week’s-worth of lunches in every package, complete with five sandwiches and sides like chips, fresh salad, fruit, water, and cookies. Those meals are filling a huge need, not unfamiliar to some of the volunteers.

“Tai and I have been friends for a really long time,” volunteer Dannae Delano says. “I saw his post on Facebook, and it kind of struck a chord with me. I was a free lunch kid when I was young and in elementary school, and I know how much it really impacted my mom.”

Today was the first day the lunches were available for pickup at three distribution hubs around the city; next week, that will expand to seven hubs reaching as far as Creve Coeur.

According to Jana Thomas, a St. Louis parent and educator, the meal relief is crucial.

“Some people are living check-to-check,” Thomas says. “So even though we’re told to go stock up, some people can’t. They can only stock up for the amount that they have, OK. So this is going to help them to continue to get by, and that’s huge. That’s really huge, to not have that worry about where their child’s next meal is gonna come from.”

Davis says it’s his way of bringing the St. Louis region together, as the coronavirus continues to separate us.

“We can’t do anything by ourselves,” he says. “We need more community to realize: Together as a whole, we can make a massive difference.”

For more information or if you need meals and can’t get to a distribution hub, contact Tai Davis at STLBOXEDLUNCHES@gmail.com or (314) 757-0605.

List of Distribution Hubs (through 3/20)

  • Local Harvest - 3108 Morganford Rd, St. Louis, MO 63116
  • Old North Provisions - 2720 N 14th St. Saint Louis, MO 63106
  • Intersect Arts Center - 3636 Texas Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63118

List of Distribution Hubs (starting 3/23)

  • Local Harvest - 3108 Morganford Rd, St. Louis, MO 63116
  • Old North Provisions - 2720 N 14th St. Saint Louis, MO 63106
  • Intersect Arts Center - 3636 Texas Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63118
  • Racanelli's - 8161 Big Bend Blvd, Webster Groves, MO 6311
  • Roughneck Beard Company - 7282 Manchester Rd, Maplewood, MO 63143
  • American Legion Post 397 -934 E Rue De La Banque, Creve Coeur, MO 63141
  • Red Dirt Revival - mobile hub driving around St. Louis City

St. Louis Public Schools will also offer free lunches for students.

RELATED: St. Louis Public Schools offering free meals for students during coronavirus pandemic

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