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Walnut Grill offers free meals to furloughed federal employees

Tawnya Panizzi
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Jan Pakler | For the Tribune-Review
Walnut Grill at The Waterworks and three other Pittsburgh area locations is now serving free meals to unpaid federal workers.

As the government shutdown trudges toward its sixth week, furloughed and unpaid federal employees can enjoy a free meal thanks to local restaurant chain Walnut Grill.

Employees – and their spouses and children – can choose from a menu of salads, sandwiches and flatbread pizzas. The meal also includes a beverage.

“We weren’t really sure anyone would take us up on the idea,” General Manager Marc Hourvitz said. “People are humble but our staff knows the sensitivity of it and this is just us reaching out and being a good neighbor.”

Locations at The Waterworks, near Fox Chapel, and in Robinson, Wexford and Bridgeville are welcoming people impacted by the shutdown.

Other groups across the Pittsburgh region are stepping up as well.

North Hills Community Outreach, headquartered in Hampton, is providing emergency food supplies for federal employees who live within one of the nearly 50 northern Allegheny County municipalities served by the nonprofit.

In Robinson, the 123shirt.com company that produces the “Stronger than Hate” T-shirts is employing furloughed workers. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank posted on its website that it will host a pop-up distribution on Jan. 30 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, downtown, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra earlier this week pledged to give two free concert tickets to people affected by the shutdown, from now until 30 days after a government resolution.

At the Walnut Grill in The Waterworks, Hourvitz said the idea of a free lunch is catching on. He’s seen dozens of out-of-work families visit his restaurant for the offer. They only need to show a valid government ID. The chain’s three locations in St. Louis are also providing free meals.

“It’s been nice,” Hourvitz said. “We’ve had more people say something about this than almost any other program we’ve done.”

As the restaurant approaches its 10 th anniversary at the shopping plaza along Freeport Road, Hourvitz said the community has been good to him and he’s returning the favor. He urged people not to be shy, saying the offer is good for repeated use.

“Come back later in the week,” he said. “It’s an easy thing for us to do and as long as this thing’s going on, we’ll be here for them.”

Tawnya Panizzi is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tawnya at 412-782-2121, ext. 2, [email protected] or via Twitter @tawnyatrib.