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Sysco Minnesota donates 3,000 lbs of produce to free Duluth farmer’s market

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DULUTH, MN-- A heartwarming scene Tuesday in Duluth's Lincoln Park as fresh food went for free.

In the midst of this deadly pandemic, families were able to walk away with more than just a bag full of groceries.

"Come on in. One at a time," shouted Laura Mullen, at 2 p.m. Tuesday.

One-by-on community members file into Duluth's first, free open-air farmers market.

"[We] heard from Sysco that they had 3000-pounds of excess produce and they wanted to get it to the whole community," said Mullen, Co-founder of Bent Paddle Brewing Co.

120 large cases of fresh produce, in fact, being handed out for free.

Many expressed gratitude, especially in this time of economic struggle for so many.

"Grateful for the fact that people are willing to do it or that I have the ability to do it," said community member Tammy Billiot. " Thankful and just appreciative to everybody that's here. Even in the midst of everything."

A collaboration between Clyde Iron Works, Bent Paddle Brewing Co., Sysco Minnesota, Pier B Resort Hotel, and the 2020 Census, helped to bring light to the community.

"I've never seen anything like this in my lifetime and anything we can be doing to help when we have a facility and organization skills and stuff like that, everyone should be stepping up right now as long as they're doing it safely," said Mullen.

While the government officials are encouraging people to stay home to help slow the spread of the Coronavirus, some considered fresh, free groceries essential.

Because of that, social distancing and proper sanitation were a top priority.

When consumers walked into the lot, they had to first put on a pair of gloves, grab a clean, reusable bag, and one-by-one make their way from table to table.

"I'll be honest it's hard, but I adhere to the social distancing. Just staying within safe feet of another," said Billiot.

Many families left the farmer's market with crucial groceries to feed their loved ones in this time of need.

While leaving the free market, Lincoln Park resident, Todd Brown said, "it's too good to be true. Orange juice, we got coffee from Duluth coffee, can't believe it. Fruits, vegetables, fresh cantaloupe, raspberries, everything! I mean it's amazing! It's better than the grocery store."

Brown said being out in the sunshine and seeing humanity after a few long weeks of isolation is refreshing. "We all come from different backgrounds but we're all now kind of in the same boat together."

Mullen said she hopes the free market spurs even more community events like this one in the future.

Jessie Slater

Evening Anchor and Reporter

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