As Coronavirus Forces Social Distancing, DC-Area Businesses Help Those in Need

Medium Rare will deliver meals to seniors and celebrity D.C. chef José Andrés will reopen restaurants as community kitchens

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As anxiety mounted over the past week over the unprecedented measures meant to stop the spread of coronavirus across D.C., Maryland and Virginia, school districts and some businesses stepped up to ease the burden of anyone financially strapped amid a global pandemic.

Health officials confirmed that more than 100 people across D.C., Maryland and Virginia were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus on Monday, and local leaders adopted stricter measures and make public pleas to encourage social distancing.

D.C. and Maryland restaurants are not only allowed to offer carry-out, delivery and drive-through service. Public schools are closed and large gatherings are banned across the region. The measures are expected to help slow the spread of disease and protect the health care system from overload.

But social distancing also burdens restaurant and retail workers whose hours get scaled back or families that rely on free and reduced school lunches.

In a time of crisis, groups worked to combat hunger in the community.

Famed Chef José Andrés, whose ThinkFoodGroup operates well-known spots including Jaleo and Zaytinya, will reopen his restaurants on Tuesday as community kitchens. Anyone can visit one of several participating locations for an affordable meal, even if they can't afford to pay at all, the chef says.

"This is a hard time, but we are one big family & we will get through this. We can all take care of each other…sometimes that’s all it takes. So be strong. We can change the world through the power of food," Andrés wrote on Twitter.

Community kitchen locations include America Eats Tavern, Georgetown; Jaleo in Bethesda, Crystal City and Penn Quarter; Oyamel, Penn Quarter and Zaytinya, Penn Quarter.

Steak restaurant chain Medium Rare will deliver hundreds of free steak dinners to seniors over 70 until supplies last. The restaurant's efforts are being supported by the NFL Players Association and volunteer delivery drivers.

By Monday morning, the restaurant said it had already delivered hundreds of meals. It wants to continue as long as its efforts are supported.

"This isn't taught in business school," owner Mark Bucher told News4. "This is something I hope we never see again. But in a world of bad news every five minutes, we felt it was our duty to do something for the communities we're in for as long as we could."

People can reach out to Medium Rare on social media with information about their older relatives who could use a hot meal.

Staff at Duke’s Grocery on 17th Street NW in D.C. prepared food as they usually would, but chose to give it away since they can no longer invite patrons inside. They used a makeshift window to give out the meals.

Staff at Duke’s Grocery on 17th Street NW in D.C. prepared food as they usually would, but chose to give it away since they can no longer invite patrons inside. News4's Jackie Bensen reports.

Schools have also opened their doors to students who rely on free and reduced lunch.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday announced the state was granted a special waiver to feed students three meals and a snack every day. D.C. ad Virginia schools also have plans to distribute meals to students. Information on school food distribution locations can be found here.

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