WASHINGTON — As National Guard soldiers from across the country pour into D.C., some local restaurants wanted to show their gratitude for all they're doing to keep the city safe.
The initiative started at the We, The Pizza restaurant in Capitol Hill last week.
"The first night that we did it, I got home and the owners called me and were like 'Oh man this is crazy,'" said Robert Earley, a manager at the pizza shop.
Then other restaurants joined in.
"I think we're all in this together," said Maria Iturralde from the Saya Salteña restaurant.
Those restaurants – and many others – joined forces to provide free meals to the National Guard troops and first responders working to keep the city safe through inauguration day on Wednesday.
"You have people working 17 hours, 15 hours, 24 hours a day," said D.C. firefighter Jonathan Tate. "It's a blessing to be able to receive support from the community like that."
The restaurants see it as a way to say thank you for an often thankless job.
"[We] want to take care of the troops," said Earley. "It's home. We're three blocks from the Capitol. You see what happened on January 6 and they're here to protect us. They're not here to cause problems."
It's also a chance for local restaurants to look forward to what they hope will be a more normal future.
"We restaurants are going to be prosperous once everything opens and once everything is back together," said Iturralde. "I think it's just a, 'Thank you, here's some food, enjoy!'"
Restaurants and other donors stepped up in a big way. Earley estimates We, The Pizza has provided close to 2,000 pies to troops and first responders since Thursday – close to $44,000-worth of pizza.
And those figures don't even include all of the contributions from the other restaurants involved.
A news release from National Guard officials last week said troops are not accepting donations of "comfort items." But so far, no official word on food donations has been offered by the National Guard. WUSA9 reached out to National Guard officials for clarification on this point but, so far, there has not been a response back.
Though the restaurants say the troops they've fed, just like the first responders, have been more than happy to accept.
D.C. Chef José Andrés, the founder of World Central Kitchen, took photos Saturday with U.S. Capitol Police officers and members of the National Guard, while handing out food to those protecting the Nation's Capital ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris
The chef, famous for his good food and community service, joined Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Saturday to provide more meals and fresh produce.
Chef Andrés' organization, World Central Kitchen, tweeted out that the menu for the National Guard troops included "Roast beef, sun-dried tomato with basil aioli on ciabatta sandwich & tomato braised vegetable stew with cannellini beans."