NEWBURYPORT -- For students of all ages, pizza for lunch is a super treat. But with schools shuttered until at least early April due to concern about the possible spread of COVID-19 around the world, many students who depend on subsidized lunches might be missing out for the foreseeable future.
When Kelli and Robert Hartley, the owners of Port Pizza and Subs inside the Market Basket plaza realized that as well, they decided to do something about it.
Since Monday, the owners have made 15 cheese pizzas for families in need, free of charge, according to Kelli Hartley.
The Hartleys began spreading the word on March 14, the last day of school, on their Facebook and Instagram pages with Monday being the first day.
“People have been so receptive to it,” Kelli Hartley said. “We’re happy to make a small cheese pizza for you.”
The Hartleys opened their pizzeria in early January where Olympia Pizza – and before that, Sal’s Pizza – used to operate.
Here’s how it works, according to Kelli Hartley: Parents of students on the school district’s free and reduced price lunch program should call the shop at 978-255-7988, and let them know of their situation. With no questions asked, a small cheese pizza will be crafted and can be picked up at the store.
Pitching in at a time where not all heroes wear capes was an easy decision for the Hartleys, who have two school-aged children of their own.
“We feel personally connected to the schools, and it’s something easy we can do, so why don’t we do it,” Kelli Hartley said.
Port Pizza and Subs joins an ever-growing list of businesses reaching out to help others in the community in a time of great need and worry. Earlier this week, the Port Sandwich Company began offering free lunches to students.
Mark Iannuccillo, Greater Newburyport Chamber of Commerce and Industry vice president, said he was happy to see businesses stepping up to help – but he wasn’t surprised.
“It speaks volumes to the fabric of our community,” Iannuccillo said. “There’s always someone willing to help.”
Iannuccillo said that, despite the state-ordered closure of sit-down restaurant service, many local restaurants have been able to keep some business going with pick-up and delivery service. However, some of the larger restaurants, from Mission Oak Grill to Sea Level and others, with more staff and higher rents are looking for solutions. Still, Iannuccillo said spirits remained high during a recent phone call with restaurant owners.
“They are still staying positive,” Iannuccillo said.
Kelli Hartley said her shop has been able to keep busy but admitted that when big news breaks, more people tend to stay in their homes.
“Overall, we’re doing well,” she said.
Dave Rogers is a reporter with the Newburyport Daily News. Email him at: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008