After shutdown, campus establishments offer free services to furloughed employees

Afro Deli and the Bell Museum have provided free food or entry to furloughed federal government workers during the shutdown.

by Erin Wilson

Two establishments on and around the University of Minnesota campus have offered free services to furloughed federal government employees over the government shutdown. 

Representatives from Afro Deli and the University’s Bell Museum said they wanted to play a part in helping community members affected by the shutdown. The government shutdown recently ceased for the next three weeks while Congress seeks an agreement on immigration reform. 

During the closure, Afro Deli, a restaurant that specializes in African, American and Mediterranean dishes, served anything on the menu free to federal employees until 3:00 p.m. The restaurant offered the deal at both its Stadium Village and St. Paul locations. 

“We have such a great relationship in St. Paul and Minneapolis with the government that it was just kind of one of the ways for us to give back,” said Safia Suleiman, Afro Deli’s catering and public relations manager. “What the owner said was, ‘This is the least we can do,’ you know?”

Owner Kahin Abdirahman said he wanted to be a resource for families affected by the government shutdown.

“I’m a social entrepreneur, so we do really care about our customers and our community. So, we just want to show them that they are not alone. You know, this is a hard time,” he said. “So it’s kind of like a small gesture. We don’t see it as a big deal but … I think that it’s going to help someone to get a lunch when they are thinking ‘Where do I get lunch today?'”

Abdirahman said he has seen a lot of employees and their families come into the restaurant since they began their offer in mid-January. 

“We say it’s not a big deal, but when I see people and how needy they are … I’m so grateful. It was a small thing, but I have seen people that really, really appreciate, you know, a small gesture. I feel good now.” 

Afro Deli will resume the offer if the shutdown continues after the three weeks, Abdirahman said. 

The Bell Museum, a natural history museum and planetarium located on the University’s St. Paul campus, is also offering free gallery admission to federal employees during the shutdown. 

“It is a simple gesture, but we hope a visit through our galleries, hanging out with a woolly mammoth, taking in our dioramas, or meeting a turtle in the Touch and See Lab is a source of some relief and joy during this hard time,” said Bell Museum Communications Manager Andria Waclawski in an email. 

Waclawski said the Bell Museum will continue to offer free admission throughout the three-week lift on the shutdown.