'There are a lot of good people in the world': A Place at the Table still offering free meals during COVID-19 pandemic

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Place at the Table in Raleigh is a staple, always helping out the community as a pay-what-you-can restaurant.

Typically, they offer about 50 free meals a day, but now due to the coronavirus pandemic and a skyrocketing unemployment rate, they're handing out around 250 free meals each day.

"We've seen a ton of people coming in and needing a meal, needing a free meal and a good meal," said founder Maggie Kane. "We've also seen a lot of people coming in and paying a couple dollars for their meal because that's all they have right now."

"It's awesome," said Kenneth Johnson. "These people are awesome, they really are. They're in a class of their own."

Kenneth Johnson has been volunteering in exchange for his meals for about two years but now due to social distancing, the restaurant isn't allowing volunteers, though they're still handing out free meals.

"To me, I feel like I'm gypping them because you know I don't like a handout," Johnson said. " I like a hand up, so you know I feel like I'm gypping them."

"It's really sad," Kane said. "It's sad for my whole team inside. We all want to open the door and give everyone hugs but we just can't right now so it's definitely changed our mission."

The restaurant is accepting payments through text messaging, allowing people to pay what they can whenever they can.

"We're seeing a lot more people that have been laid off and all they can do is pay $2, $5 or get a free meal because times are just hard," Kane said.

While they've seen a lot of new people coming, there has also been an increase of generous donations and people wanting to help in any way possible.

"The whole community takes part in this mission," Kane said. "We've seen some incredibly generous people that step in and say 'what do you need.'"

"Our mission has always been to provide community and good food regardless of means," Kane said. "All people deserve good food and community so if they can get both things here we want to be that place and we're able to be that place

"What I learned is there are a lot of good people in the world," Johnson said. "I may be going through hard times and this and that, but they're like a ray of sunshine."
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