COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - An activist group formed in June after protesting for equality and police reform is also helping combat hunger in Columbia.
Friday afternoon, Empower SC launched the Harden Food Justice Initiative and held a drive-thru market at the Drew Wellness Center.
Thanks to the City of Columbia and other community partners, the group was able to gather $7,000 worth of groceries to feed more than 300 people. The line of cars waiting for the boxes of food and household supplies stretched all the way down Two Notch Road.
The city also provided free bus transportation to the event.
“One thing that politics can not disagree on is that we need to feed the people of the United States, South Carolina, and Columbia. We need to feed our neighbors,” explained Empower SC co-founder and executive director, Rye Martinez.
Representative Todd Rutherford and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin came out to show their support.
“Our dialogue and our discussion is often about what our rights are as Americans. The reality is with those rights also come responsibilities, and what you’re seeing here is not only the exercise in leveraging their rights as citizens but also exercising their responsibilities as citizens. So, I could not be happier and more proud of Empower SC,” said Mayor Benjamin.
Empower SC says they had to turn away more than 100 cars because they ran out of supplies, which they say illustrates how great the need is in this community.
“We wish that everybody could eat, but I’ll make sure that I continue to give back, and I’ll make sure that I’m continuing to bring people together. Together, we can do anything,” Martinez explained.
The group says you’ll continue to see them protesting to stop racism and improve police relations with the African American community, but they believe stopping hunger in low-income neighborhoods is one of the first steps towards building a better Columbia.
“The marches bring that awareness that we are in need. There are people that don’t have what other people and other communities have. So what this does is show that this is how we get those problems that we hold our signs up about. This is how we get them solved,” Martinez said.
Empower SC’s goal is to create lasting food justice for the Harden Street community, and they believe that starts with bringing another accessible grocery store to this area.
Mayor Benjamin says he is working to encourage another black-owned grocery store to open on Harden Street.