Program started 15 years ago

Olive Garden serves first responders free food on Labor Day

Representatives from Olive Garden restaurants prepared and delivered complete pasta and salad lunches to first responders Monday, continuing a tradition the national chain started 15 years ago.

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More than 800 Olive Garden restaurants nationwide served their local first responders a special "thank you" lunch for their ongoing, dedicated service to the community. Restaurant chain officials said they have served more than 10,000 free meals since the program started in 2002.

For first-responders at the Fairfield Fire Department in Ohio, the efforts of the restaurant and its employees were greatly appreciated.

"We as a department definitely appreciate it, especially on holidays like this when we get busy" firefighter and paramedic Briana Molfetta told the Journal-News. 

Several pans of spaghetti, fettuccine Alfredo, meatballs, sausage and chicken were set up by Olive Garden employees at the Fairfield Fire Station No. 2, where Molfetta works. They also prepared bowls of salad and bags of bread sticks. Thirty minutes after the food arrived, 15 firefighters and medics, plus one Fairfield police officer, had eaten most of the food.

Molfetta said she was one of the last to eat because her lunch break was delayed because she was on a medic run. 

"We get busy, especially on holidays. It helps us out. It was nice to come back from a run to a hot meal," she said.

Lt. Jamie Ruhl called the prepared lunch "a nice break" for the firefighters, especially on a holiday.

Jessica Adamson, a cook at Olive Garden, said she was "very proud and honored" to serve the firefighters. She applauded her company for supporting the first responders.

"It's a very good cause -- giving back to them because they do it every day for us," Adamson said.

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