East Grand Forks restaurant adds free meals to menu

Unity Kitchen
Unity Kitchen(none)
Published: Dec. 22, 2022 at 8:49 PM CST
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EAST GRAND FORKS, Minn. (Valley News Live) - It’s the holiday season and for many families, stress is high and funds are low. This year, a bit of help has come in an unexpected way-- through an East Grand Forks restaurant.

The Spud Jr., located at 302 Demers Ave, aims to warm your stomach and your heart; however, sitting down for a meal at a restaurant is a luxury not everyone can afford. Until now.

Owner Justin LaRocque got an idea, and it started during the first pandemic shut down.

“Well, we got food to get rid of, so let’s just create some meals and offer them. It started with kids, if anyone had kids they needed to feed, but we’d get calls from people like ‘I have a kid, but my whole family could use a meal.’ So it just kept growing,” LaRocque says.

He says the need was unbelievable, adding “It was heartbreaking, it really was. I get choked up because I remember some of those stories, and I wish I could do more.”

So he did. The Spud Jr. started delivering meals to anyone in need for free. It was a bold choice for a brand new business.

LaRocque remembers, “To be honest, I didn’t think we were going to make it out of the first shut down. We were too new. We didn’t have enough legs underneath us.”

The Spud did make it, and they started partnering with their food provider, US Foods, to be able to keep providing free meals.

“It just opened my eyes to if we can sustain and we can thrive, we need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to support those who aren’t as fortunate as we are.”

Fast forward to now: The Spud Jr. just added a permanent portion to the menu of entirely free meals, and they’ll give them to anyone, no questions asked.

“You don’t need to give us a reason. We know if you’re coming, you have a reason. We don’t need to know,” LaRocque says.

To him, this still is only the beginning. He not only plans to continue the program, but he hopes to grow it even more.

LaRocque’s advice if you’d like to help? Pop into The Spud Jr. and order off the regular menu.