Breckenridge Texan

‘If nothing else, the kids will eat’: Breckenridge restaurant owner provides weekend meals for local children

‘If nothing else, the kids will eat’: Breckenridge restaurant owner provides weekend meals for local children
May 17
10:23 2020

Every Saturday for the past several weeks, the employees of Pit Stop Bar-B-Q restaurant, along with some volunteers, have spent their Saturday mornings putting together weekend sack lunches for the kids of Breckenridge.

The project started after Breckenridge schools were closed, along with all other Texas schools, due to the coronavirus threat. When the schools first closed, some children in the community were at risk for going hungry without regular access to the breakfasts and lunches served by the school each day and the weekend meal backpacks some had been receiving through the School Health Advisory Council.

Breckenridge Independent School District quickly organized a plan to provide weekday lunches and breakfasts to local school age children 18 years old or younger, but the Texas Department of Agriculture, which oversees the school lunch program, does not allow the schools to provide meals for the weekend. (Click here for more details about the BISD meals: bisd-food-service-update-040220) As soon as it became known that some kids in the community might not have enough food, Rodney Hartfield, the owner of Pit Stop Bar-B-Q, invited any children without a meal to go by the restaurant for some food. Over the ensuing weeks, that invitation developed into the backpack project.

Pit Stop Bar-B-Q owner Rodney Hartfield shows the food that is included in a typical backpack that is given to local kids who otherwise might not have enough to eat over the weekend. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

“Once the coronavirus deal hit, everybody was kind of freaking out, and I said, ‘If nothing else, we’ll make sure the kids eat,'” Hartfield said Saturday morning as he prepared to distribute bags full of food for the weekend. “The school feeds them during the week, but they can’t feed on the weekends.”

When BISD developed a routine that allows parents to pick up a weekday lunch and breakfast for the next day through a drive-up service at Breckenridge High School, Hartfield focused on providing meals for the weekend. On a typical Saturday, about 60 backpacks of food are picked up.

The backpacks are filled with a variety of food items, including fruit, sandwiches, snacks, juice pouches, crackers, candy, water, ramen noodle cups, oatmeal, cinnamon rolls, and more. “We try to give them something for lunch on Saturday, breakfast on Sunday and something for lunch on Sunday,” Hartfield said. “We just want to make sure they get to eat on the weekends.”

Hartfield and the Pit Stop Bar-B-Q staff, along with any volunteers who show up, assemble the bags on Saturday mornings, including fresh-made sandwiches. For anyone who is picking up a backpack for the first time, Hartfield encourages them to write the kids’ names on the backpacks and return the empty backpacks before the next Saturday so that they can be refilled. Starting at about 10:30 on Saturday mornings, the backpacks can be picked up at the Pit Stop drive-through window.

In addition to the backpacks for those who come by every week, Hartfield makes sure there are extra backpacks for newcomers.

Each week, Carol Prince with Covenant Tabernacle Ministries picks up as many as 25 backpacks and delivers them to families that don’t have a way to get to Pit Stop. “I’m just a small pond in this whole scheme of things,” Prince said Saturday morning. “I couldn’t do it without Rodney and the school district and everyone else involved.”

Rodney Hartfield and Carol Prince take backpacks of food to her car on Saturday morning. Prince, with Covenant Tabernacle Ministries, delivers the food to up to 25 kids each week. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

The project is funded with donations of money and food, Hartfield said. “People come by and donate,” he said. “We (Pit Stop) provide the backpacks and some food, but we have had a lot of support. We didn’t ask for help … people just drive up to the window or see me at the store and give me a donation, saying ‘This is for the kids.'”

Anyone who wants to drop off donations — money or food — can stop by Pit Stop during their current regular business hours, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays. The restaurant is serving only at the drive-through window and by delivery at this time.

Although the overall situation has been tough, Hartfield said there have been some positives. “The best thing is to see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they get their bags,” he said. “They can’t wait to get their bags.”

Hartfield said that just a few weeks ago he would’ve never imagined all of the changes that have come about because of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic but he wants to make sure that children aren’t going hungry.

“If nothing else, the kids gotta eat,” Hartfield said again. “This is the whirlwind we live in now, and we’re just trying to do our part.  As long as we have the resources and people keep donating, we’ll keep doing it.”

Volunteer Luke McClymond, left, and Rodney Hartfield fill backpacks with food on Saturday morning. Local donations of food and money have helped ensure Breckenridge’s children have enough to eat over the weekend. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Reyna Ramirez, left, and Brooke Jamison make sandwiches to include with the weekend backpacks. The backpacks help ensure Breckenridge kids aren’t going hungry and include sandwiches, chips, fruit, crackers, as well as food for Sunday morning’s breakfast and lunch. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Luke McClymond and Armando Mares make sandwiches for the weekend backpacks at Pit Stop Bar-B-Q on Saturday morning. The bags help provide food for Breckenridge children. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

Story by Carla McKeown/Breckenridge Texan

Cutline, top photo: Rodney Hartfield, who owns Pit Stop Bar-B-Q in Breckenridge, hands out backpacks of food to make sure local children have enough to eat over the weekend, when the school district can’t provide meals. (Photo by Tony Pilkington/Breckenridge Texan)

For more local news about the coronavirus pandemic, click here to visit the Breckenridge Texan’s Coronavirus News page.

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