By Ukee Washington

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When COVID hit, a Center City restaurant saw a huge drop in business. But the owner found an opportunity to use his kitchen to give back.

It’s morning at Pagano’s Market and Bar, and they’re cooking and packing an Italian feast.

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“It’s such a great feeling. to be putting all our efforts into these meals,” said Matt Pagano.

He says these meals are keeping him busy.

When the COVID crisis hit, and so many office workers started working from home, business plunged.

“Our business was built on thousands of people in our two buildings at commerce square,” said Pagano.

He had to lay off a large portion of his staff.

Then Brandywine Realty Trust contacted him. Could the restaurant help make meals for the needy?

“It just inspired us to help families that were in need,” he said.

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Businesses in the building chipped in money to help pay for food and staff. Everyone had to take pay cuts, but the contributions are helping Matt pay employees and vendors.

“These companies helped us financially feed insecure families all over Philadelphia from West Philly to South Philly to the Frankford section,” Pagano said.

Philabundance put him in touch with the Sunday Love Project, where Margaux Murphy got a delivery of about 500 meals.

“They’re just really lovely people. They’re helping to make a dent in the food insecurity during the pandemic,” Murphy said.

Matt estimates the restaurant has delivered at least 20,000 meals around the area.

“During this pandemic, with all this bad has just been amazing,” Pagano said. “It’s something we want to continue to do. This is not going to end the minute COVID is gone.”

Pagano said he would welcome assistance so he can get more food to more people.

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Ukee Washington