Calif. county jail employees support eateries during COVID-19 shelter-in-place

Sonoma County Jail Sgt. Amanda Lee came up with the idea to order group meals from the jail three times a week to support local restaurants


By Lori A. Carter
The Press Democrat

SONOMA COUNTY, Calif. — Essential workers still need to eat lunch.

Why not make it a twofer, thought Sonoma County Jail Sgt. Amanda Lee, and order midday meals from local restaurants to help them survive during this coronavirus shelter-in-place lockdown?

Sgt. Lee and the crew at the jail have already bought mass lunch orders at 10 local restaurants and have a growing list of restaurants to try. (Photo/Sonoma Sheriff via Facebook)
Sgt. Lee and the crew at the jail have already bought mass lunch orders at 10 local restaurants and have a growing list of restaurants to try. (Photo/Sonoma Sheriff via Facebook)

She took the idea and expanded it into a thrice-weekly group lunch order from the jail that supports local eateries, gives workers some midday variety and makes everyone involved feel better during isolation.

“We had so many good people donating food during the fire, so we thought this would be our way to help bring it back around,” she said. “This was an opportunity to bring in some lunches and help the people who have supported us in all these crises we’ve been experiencing.”

In a time when we’re all stressed about COVID-19 and its fallout, doing something supportive for someone else brings its own peace, she said.

“People were really on board,” Lee said. “It’s been really fun because I’ve had this whole group of partners taking ownership of different days.”

Lee and the crew at the jail — including correctional officers, medical and mental health staff in the jail, janitors, even the kitchen workers — have already bought mass lunch orders at 10 local restaurants and have a growing list of restaurants to try.

Because 20 or 30 meals at one time is a challenge for any restaurant, Lee and her colleagues plan several days ahead.

The extra financial boost is welcome during this slow time, said J.C. Adams, co-owner of Windsor restaurant Kin, which put together a lunch order for a couple dozen jail workers. But it’s also making a connection to support other community members who are going through the same difficulties right now.

“It’s something to fill the gap a little bit and help out in any way,” he said. “The most important thing isn’t that it’s been them supporting us. We’re always here to do food, it’s what we do. But it’s been pretty amazing to see the support — anybody who can help has been trying to.”

Each lunch order — food from El Roy’s taco truck was a hit — can be as much as $400, Lee said, a nice shot in the arm for businesses that have been shut down for in-house service.

“The restaurant owners have been so awesome,” she said. “Whether it’s me placing an order or our pickup person, they are so appreciative. With the tip, they’re like ‘You’re even giving us a tip?’?”

Adams, whose Kin restaurant celebrates nine years in business on Easter Sunday, agreed, saying he knows survival may become more difficult the longer the shelter-in-place order exists.

“We definitely never take it for granted,” he said. “It’s true appreciation when people come in and buy food. They don’t have to do that. It’s a lot of people taking the time to say ‘I want to support these people and their families,’ and it really hits home.”

Both Lee and Adams said the virus lockdown time reminds them of how Sonoma County residents rose to the occasion in the past three years, with fires, floods, smoke and power outages.

“We all live in this county,” Lee said. “We will still need things after this is over, so all these businesses need to survive.”

“I can’t say enough about Sonoma County,” Adams said. “It’s what we do best. We’ve gone through so much hardship and challenges over the years. These are the times it shows who we are.”

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©2020 The Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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