Plowboys Barbeque, Operation BBQ Relief, launch pilot program at Overland Park restaurant for food-insecure residents

Plowboys Barbeque teamed up with Operation BBQ Relief to launch a pilot program for restaurant relief. The program operates out of Plowboys' Overland Park restaurant at 75th and Metcalf. Photo courtesy Operation BBQ Relief.

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Plowboys Barbeque, a restaurant company with a location in Overland Park, is working with local nonprofit Operation BBQ Relief to pilot a restaurant relief program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program is designed to feed those in the community who are food insecure, keep restaurants from going out of business and help workers stay employed.

Operation BBQ Relief started offering meals in mid-March in Kansas City, Missouri. But the nonprofit began looking for ways to pivot operations so it can respond to the unique challenges of physical distancing and limiting groups to 10 people.

The pilot program is also a way for Operation BBQ Relief to continue offering food assistance without violating guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Stan Hays, chief executive officer of Operation BBQ Relief, said the program allows the nonprofit to continue offering relief within the guidelines of physical distancing and limiting gatherings to groups of 10 people. Photo courtesy Operation BBQ Relief

Stan Hays, chief executive officer of Operation BBQ Relief, announced the new partnership in late March with Todd Johns, founder of Plowboys.

Meals are cooked and distributed from 12 to 4 p.m. seven days a week at the Plowboys Barbeque Overland Park location at 75th and Metcalf.

Essential workers, nonprofit organizations and community-based organizations, as well as individuals, may request a meal through the program.

Depending on quantities requested, free meals may be picked up curbside at 6737 W. 75th St.

Citing record-breaking numbers of those who filed for unemployment in Kansas and Missouri in recent weeks, Hays and Johnson said they hope to provide much-needed meals to people who are food insecure.

They expect to help thousands throughout the Kansas City metro area during the COVID-19 pandemic, all while helping Plowboys survive the upheaval of operations.

Todd Johns, founder of Plowboys Barbeque, said he expects the need for this program to grow as more families grapple with unemployment and food insecurity. Photo courtesy Plowboys Barbeque

“I think as we go along, and as more people are out of work longer, we’re going to see the need for the services we have grow,” Johns said, citing funding needs to support continuation of the program.

Operation BBQ Relief is also exploring grant opportunities to fund the program.

Plowboys can provide up to 2,500 meals per day; within a few days of launching the program, the restaurant already has standing orders for groups of 500.

If the pilot program is successful in Kansas City, then Operation BBQ Relief plans to roll out the restaurant relief program to other cities.

In addition to the food and some supplies, Operation BBQ Relief has paid Plowboys a set amount to rehire six of its 40 previously laid-off employees to staff the pilot program.

Johns said he is grateful for the knowledge of the nonprofit to implement disaster relief, allowing his staff to focus on the work that needs to be done in the kitchen.

“This could be the missing link to help sustain us and obviously to serve the community in a time of unprecedented need,” Johns said. “This opportunity to keep cooking is a small answer to big prayers. It gives us hope.”

Johns noted that Plowboys staff is following all CDC guidelines, including sanitizing surfaces regularly, medical screening of volunteers, limiting access to the food production areas and separation by at least 50 feet for receiving, delivery and distribution of food.

The program will offer a stripped-down menu in response to the needs of disaster relief; this means the menu could vary from day to day and include a variety of proteins and side dishes, based on availability.

Hays and Johns said they need donations to cover the cost of food and supplies for the program. Donations can be made at OBR.org. For more information, contact FeedingKC@plowboysbbq.com.