MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — What could have been thousands of pounds of trash was treasured Thursday night by more than a thousand people in St. Paul.

Amidst the dreariest days and the dreariest of times, a bright moment arose inside this St. Paul restaurant.

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Justin Sutherland owns Public Kitchen, which is closed due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but he decided to open for his customers, giving away all of the food he will no longer be able to serve.

“The produce, these perishables that we can’t freeze, you know, my heart would not let me throw it in the trash,” Sutherland said.

Soon, his supply multiplied as restaurants donated from as far away as Cannon Falls. David Fhima of Fhima’s Restaurant in Minneapolis donated his supply, too.

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“What else does a chef do besides cook? So if you can’t cook, you help people,” Fhima said.

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About 1,500 people lined up, filling as many bags of food as they wanted in the effort to restore pantries, and faith.

Amidst the toughest of times, the restaurant business is taking the hardest of hits. These chefs are taking their temporary lack of pay and paying it forward.

“All we know is how to feed people, so I had to try and do my part,” Sutherland said.

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He also opened his Fare Well Foods truck Thursday and served 1,700 hot meals. The truck and the free market are open to all again Friday at noon at Public Kitchen in St. Paul.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield