Costello’s connects with kids, has given away 20,000 free meals since pandemic began

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PENSACOLA, Fla. (WKRG) — A Pensacola butcher shop has offered free lunch to students in Northwest Florida since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Costello’s butcher shop, 8190 W. Fairfield Dr., recently gave away its 20,000th free lunch. The free lunch program at Costello’s started as a way to help families who were struggling due to COVID-related layoffs.

Now, Costello’s owner, Christie Costello, says the program should continue on as long as there is a need.

“It’s actually morphed into a lot more than what we started with,” Costello said Wednesday morning.

Since March, Costello’s has partnered up with Warrington Emergency Aid Center, which has donated food for the bagged lunches. Costello said the butcher shop has also teamed up with Family of Hope Ministries for community feedings.

Some of its vendors, like Boar’s Head, have reduced prices on some meats and make the student’s sandwiches as well.

“It’s just gone crazy,” Costello said, adding she didn’t expect the program to grow as much as it did.

Costello is not only feeding kids in the community — she’s teaching life lesson’s along the way.

“There were some kids who were bad that would come in, get the lunch, go out in the parking lot and throw their stuff on the ground,” Costello said. “They were just — they just needed direction. And I’ve eventually gained their trust. They come in now and they help clean up the parking lot.”

Costello is also teaching kids they have to earn what they get in life. If kids want extra sweet treats from the butcher shop, they have to write Costello a book report.

“I told them if they wrote a book report and it was good and it was legible with punctuation and the spelling was good, I would give them a big dessert outside of what was in their lunch,” Costello said. “They took that and ran and got a lot of desserts.” 

Costello said she doesn’t want praise for starting the program. She said she just wants to keep it going for the kids in the community.

“It’s not about me,” she said. “It’s about them.”

If you’d like to help, donations are accepted in person, by mail, or over the phone.

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