As COVID-19 continues to spread, thousands of schools across the United States have shut their doors as part of the fight to “flatten the curve” of transmission. These closures have not only disrupted the routines of millions of students, but also sparked concerns that children who rely on the school system for breakfast and lunch will go without meals. To help stimulate the minds and fill the bellies of students from families in need, a Detroit gallery and restaurant have teamed up to provide kids with free dinners—and a special coloring book filled with sketches by renowned artists.
As Mark Kurlyandchik reports for the Detroit Free Press, the initiative is a collaboration between the Library Street Collective, a contemporary fine art gallery, and Standby, a restaurant and bar. Starting Monday, Standby will prepare weekday meals for 200 Detroit Public Schools Community District students. The district launched a “grab-and-go” breakfast and lunch program this week, so the new initiative will focus on providing dinners. Meal options will include roasted chicken with polenta and sweet-and-sour Brussels sprouts, braised pork shoulder with potato wedges and succotash, and curried charred cauliflower, according to the Detroit Free Press. Local nonprofits Forgotten Harvest and the Downtown Boxing Gym will distribute the food.
Across the country, the National School Lunch Program serves more than 30 million children every day; the School Breakfast Program provides meals to nearly 15 million children. Within the Detroit Public Schools Community District, 86 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch programs, the Free Press reports.
Anthony Curis, co-founder of the Library Street Collective, tells Sarah Cascone of artnet News that the initiative seeks to provide not only “a dire necessity right now,” but also “a source of inspiration for students who are out of school.” Each meal comes with a coloring book featuring drawings by some 30 contemporary artists, among them KAWS; Beverly Fishman; and Shepard Fairey, who designed the Barack Obama “hope” poster. Most of the sketches were drawn specifically for the project, which will also provide kids with colored pencils and a sharpener. The new book is titled We All Rise in honor of the Detroit Public Schools motto: “Students rise. We all rise.”
“Art and all forms of creativity provide valuable therapy any time, but especially during times of stress and social isolation,” says Fairey in a statement quoted by artnet. “I hope that this sketchbook will provide a positive creative outlet in this time of uncertainty.”
The gallery has printed 2,500 coloring books, and the meal program is currently set to take place over the course of two weeks. But given that some states are already canceling school for the remainder of the academic year—and that the pandemic is fueling a surge in unemployment—the project’s organizers hope that they will be able to continue to provide meals and activities to families in need.
“We’re trying to figure this all out as we go,” Curis tells artnet. “We’re hopeful someone will really step up and help support the project.”