Twin Cities restaurants double as community donation hubs

Local restaurants open their doors to the community

by Meg Bishop

Local eateries across the Twin Cities have opened their doors as donation drop off sites and foodbanks for neighborhoods that became food deserts after the events following George Floyd’s murder. 

Destructive protesters damaged many neighborhood grocery and convenience stores in the surrounding areas forcing them to shut their doors. Restaurant owners saw the community’s need and stepped up to help share resources.

Some of the restaurants include Pimento Jamaican Kitchen, Trio Plant-Based, Surly Brewing Co., Hai Hai and House of Gristle.

Pimento Jamaican Kitchen in St.Paul, a Black-owned restaurant, is hosting donation relief services to the Twin Cities. Since Pimento was no longer using parts of the restaurant because of COVID-19, they decided to open up space and house donation items for the community.

“We were like we need to figure something out to be able to help those people on the ground and provide them resources,” said Scott McDonald, event manager for Pimento. 

The restaurant has now seen donations ranging from regular grocery items to clothing of all sizes to asthma inhalers. 

Surly Brewing Co., a Minneapolis brewery nearby the University of Minnesota, is also helping the community through food and supply drives. 

“There are people who care. There are people who want change,” said Mary Sellke, the Executive Director of the Surly Gives a Damn program. SGAD has been active since 2010. The brewery began hosting a few large community events each year such as service projects, charitable events and blood drives. 

Sellke said the coronavirus was a tipping point for the program. Surly began hosting a greater number of blood drives since the need for blood had increased. At the beginning of June, when news that Minnehaha Commons didn’t have the food or supplies necessary to support the community’s resource shortage, Sellke knew Surly had to take a stand. 

“It became – where’s the next need,” Sellke said.

The next day, Surly hosted an emergency food drive, which resulted in people dropping off enough food to fill 30 wood pallets. “People were bringing carloads of things,” Sellke said. “People just want to help right now.” The drive collected more resources than what they knew to do with. After contacting multiple places around the city, they distributed the goods to various communities in the area. 

“It’s a lot of work, but the payoff is that you really know you’re making a difference,” said Janet Wehri, a repeat volunteer for SGAD. Beyond volunteering for Surly during this time, she also regularly volunteers with SGAD for trash pick and community gardening for The Sheridan Story. 

The brewery is hosting another social distance blood drive on July 3. Sellke hopes to see the Minneapolis community continue its current trajectory of volunteering and donating.

“Were not done. We are nowhere near done. Were in for the long haul,” Sellke said. “People will always need things.”