Parents all over the country are feeling an enormous amount of fear and anxiety over the coronavirus pandemic—and for too many those worries include how to keep their kids fed.
Grocery store shelves have been stripped bare in some spots, and when you couple that with the fact that many families are accustomed to their kids getting free meals at school—about 20 million lunches are served in U.S. schools, daily according to the Washington Post—some moms and dads are stressing out about how long their pantries are going to stay full.
Burger King is rolling out a new promotion that could help out with that (or at least offer an alternative to eating yet another can of soup or box of macaroni and cheese).
Starting Monday, March 23, if you order one adult meal from the chain using its app or website, you can get two kids meals for free.
Making customers use the website or app to place the order is a smart move by the company, as it helps practice social distancing. Burger King is also urging people to take full advantage of other services that minimize contact, like drive-thru and free delivery (if it's available where you live).
According to the FDA, "Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. Like other viruses, it is possible that the virus that causes COVID-19 can survive on surfaces or objects."
"However, the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading from person-to-person in some communities in the U.S. The CDC recommends that if you are sick, stay home until you are better and no longer pose a risk of infecting others," the agency states.
However, many food service workers in the U.S. do not have sick pay, something that could increase the risk as desperate people decide whether to miss work for the sake of society or miss a paycheck. According to the CEO of Restaurant Brands International (Burger King's parent company), José Cil, Burger King is among the companies acting to give low wage earners sick pay right now. This week Cil told Business Insider that BK employees at corporate-owned restaurants can now get up to 14 days of paid sick leave during this pandemic.
This week The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was signed into law, providing sick leave to many workers who have been without it. But there are still gaps. Big businesses (like large fast food chains) are exempt. That potentially leaves fast food employees very vulnerable at a time at a time when the White House says fast food workers are necessary to keep America fed.
This week President Trump had a call with Cil and other fast food execs to discuss how chain restaurants can stay open during the pandemic. "We discussed the important role that the drive-through, pick-up, and delivery service can play in the weeks ahead," the President explained.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin also spoke about the role restaurants can play during this time. "First of all, we want to make sure that the states allow the drive-through portion of these fast foods to stay open. Particularly in a time period where we're telling people 'don't go to restaurants,' these companies feed a big part of America, and I expect they're going to feed a bigger part of America," he explained.
But many critics are pointing out that the economic vulnerability of many fast food employees means they're more likely to go into work sick. As the New York Times reports, "The government is asking these workers to perform a vitally important service—to stay home and sacrifice their livelihood to stem the tide of infection—and has a 'moral obligation' to pay them accordingly, said Economic Policy Institute economist Josh Bivens."
We often think of fast food workers as teens earning pocket money, but most are adults. Many are mothers trying to provide for their kids.
It's a complex issue. We can't say there is zero risk in ordering fast food right now, but there are some things you can do to be extra cautious if you want to take Burger King up on this offer. The Verge suggests unpacking your food right away and discarding all the packaging, transferring it from whatever container it came into a dish of your own, and using your own utensils instead of any disposable ones that might be included with your meal. And of course, before and after your eat, don't forget to wash your hands.