PORTLAND, Maine — Teresa Esposito no longer works in the food service industry but she has already seen the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on those who do. That's why she's organizing a free meal for food service workers and their families.

"It just breaks my heart to see that industry so hard hit. I know that the hustle is real and those people hustle so much," Esposito said. "I think that the concern is definitely there for the future. Nobody knows what it will look like at the end of this but I think the more you see us unite, the less likely you are to see us fall apart."

Espo's Trattoria, which was in the Esposito family for 50 years, was sold within the last year to Tony Napolitano, who owns Maria's Restaurant. Teresa's father, Bob Esposito, now owns Yankee Ford. Teresa's connection to both businesses spurred the idea of a partnership to help those who may be unexpectedly experiencing tough times due to the coronavirus-related restrictions that have affected the food service industry.

"When I decided to come up with this whole thing, I was like I know that I can utilize the restaurant. Tony will definitely get involved with giving back to people in this industry," Esposito said. "Yankee Ford will back us in providing all of the food and my sister and I are going to go in and do the prep with Tony."

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From 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, April 10, Maria's Restaurant is welcoming the first 100 food service employees to a free takeout meal of pasta, bread, meatballs, and salad. However, Esposito said she plans to prepare food for more than 100 people in case more than 100 people show up.

"If we can make it so that everybody hears about it and it's a very good turnout, that we can feed more than 100 we're expecting," Esposito said. "I want people to truly come and if they have children we won't turn anybody away. If it blows up and we need to do it more than this one time, we will definitely do that."

Maria's Restaurant is located at 1335 Congress Street in Portland. All food service workers are asked to bring a pay stub with them for validation.

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