BY SARA TABIN
Daily Post Staff Writer
Firefighters at the Menlo Park Fire Protection District are serving their community in a new way. They are getting take-out food instead of cooking at the station to support local eateries.
Small businesses around the Peninsula are struggling as COVID-19 shuts down the nation.
Restaurants have closed or switched to to-go only to comply with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s stay-at-home order.
Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said the district started buying food for on-duty firefighters when the county stay-at-home order was announced on March 16. In the midst of long grocery lines and sold-out shelves, he decided stations should stock up on several days worth of groceries to make sure no firefighters would run out of food.
But after visiting local restaurants and realizing how much they were struggling, Schapelhouman had a new idea.
“I told the firefighters since the district is footing the bill for the food, what I want you to do is take the money and go back and start buying at the restaurants in the fire district,” he said.
Schapelhouman said the meals are “nothing crazy, no New York steaks.” He said buying from local businesses is a way of making sure people know the firefighters are thinking about them and want their businesses to survive.
He said he was pleased to learn that firefighters at East Palo Alto Fire Station 2 left a $120 tip for a restaurant out of their own pockets.
“They are stepping up,” he said. “We have stepped up to support them and they have stepped up to support the community.”
He said the firefighters are trying to rotate through different restaurants in the area.
The firefighters have been on the frontline of responding to COVID-19. Schapelhouman said the district has a two-person team dedicated to COVID-19 calls. They have been getting up to seven calls a day.
Schapelhouman says that is manageable so far, but the district might get overwhelmed if cases in the region surge.