Northside Program provides free meals to neighbors in need during Coronavirus Outbreak

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A collection of Northside restaurants are coming together to help feed people in need.

"I feel like all restaurants need help right now. So if we're getting the help so we should help other people," said Darnell Reed, owner of Luella's Southern Kitchen in Lincoln Square.

Reed is one of more than a dozen restaurant owners and managers that have signed on to join the Common Pantry's mission of keeping every neighbor fed.

The pantry was originally buying gift cards from local businesses and giving them to their clients, to help diversify their meals. Then they came up with a better idea.

"If you think about what money can do and the money is coming into us to help our neighbors in need," Common Pantry Board President David Brown said. "At the same time, the restaurants were struggling, we thought 'let's get that money out to restaurants to keep their staff employed as well.'"

So the pantry joined forces with four chambers of commerce, Lincoln Square Ravenswood, Ravenswood, Roscoe Village and North Center to start the I Am Your Neighbor program.

By participating, people help fund a local business and feed a neighbor in need.

"When you donate to the restaurant you're helping the restaurant and you're helping anyone who probably didn't have enough funds to buy a meal from a restaurant," Reed said.

People can donate through the pantry or by calling one of the participating restaurants. That money goes to a specific tab, used exclusively for this program.

If you need a meal, all you'll have to do is walk in and say "I am your neighbor."

"Even though there is nobody on the streets, there is somebody there who cares," said Markus Chwajol, owner of Cobblestone. That's very important to all of us here. My team is just wonderful, we work 24/7 pretty much on making this happen."

The program has no end date yet, but it could become permanent if there's enough neighborhood support.

"It's a circle of gratitude if you will. Who are we helping? Who's helping whom?," Brown said. "It's really everybody is just helping everybody and it's beautiful."

Click here to see a full list of participating restaurants.

Jalyn Henderson is a Community Journalist at ABC 7 Chicago. She tells stories on the North Side of Chicago in neighborhoods like Uptown, Edgewater, Ravenswood, Lincoln Square, West Ridge and Rogers Park. If you have a story to share in these neighborhoods you can send an email to Jalyn.L.Henderson@abc.com
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