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Milwaukee's The Tandem restaurant gives away hundreds of free meals daily during COVID-19 pandemic

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Many restaurants are suffering during the Coronavirus outbreak - some having to shut their doors completely while others scaling back their operations drastically just to survive, but The Tandem is choosing to thrive through the goodness of a free meal.

"It will be good to look back at this time to say we did what we thought was right,” said Caitlin Cullen, chef and owner at The Tandem.

At a time when time to ourselves is becoming the temporary norm, finding strength in numbers can be hard.

“It's just strange,” Cullen said. “It's a place that's usually bustling with folks and today there's only like six of us here.”

Cullen opened The Tandem on Milwaukee's Northwest side about three years ago. It's now one of the many restaurants forced to change their plans because of the Coronavirus outbreak.

“Business stopped last week,” she said.

They like others tried to stay afloat with just the few customers for carry-out and delivery, but still had a lot of food left.

“So we decided to just cook through what we had in the basement and turn it into free meals,” Cullen said.

They’re making free meals for people in need especially right now. They prepared 85 meals that first day to give away.

“I thought those would last like a week or so and those were gone within three hours,” she said.

Then they made more the next day and more people showed up.

“We made 150 meals and those were gone in two hours,” she said. “So then we did 300.”

That was when they realized there was a desperate craving that needed to be satisfied.

“…For people who had been laid off folks who weren't prepared to be locked up at home or hadn't been to the grocery store or were waiting on a paycheck,” she said.

She and the staff decided to stop the delivery and carry-out and just focus on the community meal pantry they created.

The Tandem is also teaming up with area restaurants and restaurant workers who have been laid off and is using the donations they're getting to make even more meals. 

“It's possible we could do 500 meals someday,” Cullen said.

Because like their name, working in tandem with the community creates a movement that she said provides hope in a time of uncertainty.

“Everyone stands to lose everything right now so I think as long as we are doing what feels right then I'm ok with that,” she said.

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