It is about the food. The healing, the comfort, the nourishment. And that is what is needed now.
On Wednesday, more than 1,000 Upstate residents will get to experience a fresh meal through a unique partnership of local and non-local agencies and non-profits.
The Greenville Drive, along with FoodShare South Carolina and the Richmond, Virginia-based The Underground Kitchen are partnering to feed Greenvillians in need. The meal effort is also a tribute to Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who was one of nine Black parishioners killed by Dylann Roof at Mother Emanuel AME church in Charleston in 2015. June 17th marks the 5th anniversary of their deaths.
Each meal bag will include a quart of scratch made soup, a fresh loaf of bread, white roses, rosemary and a note of affirmation.
Coronavirus pushed the philanthropic food effort, but the timing of the launch in Greenville is directly tied to remembering and honoring the nine people who lost their lives, said Marylou Stinson, a public health social worker, who helped connect FoodShare, The Drive and UGK’s Community First Project.
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“When we were thinking about a soft launch here in South Carolina for this, we thought of the five-year mark,” said Stinson, who worked with Sen. Pinckney on healthy food access. “Sen. Pinckney was such an advocate for real food for families. This is just one small way to honor him. I didn’t have the good fortune to know the other eight, but I knew him. He has such an important legacy.”
This collaborative food donation effort is the first of many more in Greenville, said UGK CEO Micheal Sparks. Plans include a regular meal donation collaboration, Sparks said.
Underground Kitchen, which has built its reputation as a unique dinner series that offers attendees a once in a lifetime dining experience while also offering chefs a chance to cook without limitations. UGK focuses particularly on partnering with chefs who are underrepresented in the fine dining world, like minorities and women.
When COVID hit and restaurants were shutting down, Sparks and his partner and UGK COO Katie Houck saw a new purpose for their culinary exploration, feeding those in need. That led to UKG’s Community First Project, which utilized volunteer efforts of local chefs, along with donations by local churches and farmers and individuals and church kitchens to prepare meals for those in need from those working on the COVID frontline to families suffering job loss as a result of the pandemic.
Thus far, Community First Project has only worked in Richmond but a connection with Stinson in South Carolina led the group to Greenville. That’s how they connected with The Drive and owner Craig Brown. The ballpark, which Brown has fondly referred to as the community’s “front porch,” is playing venue host, and Drive executive chef, Wilberto Sauceda is offering his cooking skills.
FoodShare, a non-profit devoted to bridging the gap between need and access to fresh food, has connected with those in need through an existing network of fresh produce box recipients.
The prep began over the weekend with UGK’s crew, including two chefs, FoodShare and The Drive working round the clock.
Meals will be distributed at The Dive stadium and through Mill Village Farms, the Greenville FoodShare partner Wednesday, but there are plans to return soon, Spark promised.
“We will do this as long as people need us,” Sparks promised.
Lillia Callum-Penso covers food for The Greenville News. She can be reached at email@example.com or at 864-478-5872, or on Facebook at facebook.com/lillia.callumpenso.