“Police restrain crowd from taking food after supermarket eviction” – Augusta, Georgia

Source: WFXG.com

Mark Barber reports for Fox 54 News in Augusta(WFXG) on 27 March 2013:

Law enforcement officials pushed back hundreds of people who were crowding around a large pile of merchandise outside an Augusta grocery store Tuesday afternoon.

But the goods sitting in the parking lot of the Laney Supermarket didn’t make into anyone’s hands.

Instead, the food people hoped to take home was tossed into the trash.

“People have children out here that are hungry, thirsty, could be anything. Why throw it away when you could be issuing it out?” asked Robertstine Lambert.

The Marshal of Richmond County, Steve Smith, says the food wasn’t theirs to give away, so they had to trash it.

“We don’t have authority to take possession of the property; we just have to make sure that it’s handled, disposed of by law,” Smith, said.

SunTrust Bank in Atlanta owns the property and they’re sending the merchandise to the landfill after evicting the Chois, the owners of the grocery store.

The Chois didn’t want to speak on camera but they say they were kicked out by the bank because they owe them thousands of dollars.

They say they offered the food to a church, but members didn’t show up to claim it.

That’s when word that store products were abandoned spread through the community.

About 300 people came to take merchandise home, but they were held back by law enforcement.

“These are brand new items; we saw the potential for a riot was extremely high,” said Sheriff Richard Roundtree.

Jennifer Santiago was forced to leave empty handed and she says trashing the merchandise is truly a waste.

“For them to do this is a low blow. A lot of people are sad, a lot of people aren’t going to have food to put on their table; this is ridiculous,” she said.

The Chois say they were notified by the bank on Friday that they would be evicted on Tuesday.

They say they didn’t move out earlier because they wanted to work up to the last minute.

The following day, it was reported that the owner of the trucking company used to haul off Laney Supermarket food decided to donate some to the Harvest Food Bank instead.   Fox 54’s Mark Barber again reports:

Travis McNeal, the Executive Director for the Golden Harvest Food Bank sorts through to salvage usable goods. Source: wfxg.com

Travis McNeal, the Executive Director for the Golden Harvest Food Bank, sorted through piles of chips, drinks and canned foods that were recovered from the Laney Supermarket Wednesday.

“We’re looking at probably 4,000 to 5,000 pounds of food,” said McNeal.

McNeal says the food will feed over 4,000 people.

But it nearly went to waste when it was loaded into dumpsters Tuesday, after the Laney Supermarket was evicted because the owners couldn’t make a profit.

When people in the community heard a pile of goods was sitting outside the store they showed up to take the merchandise home.

Since SunTrust Bank in Atlanta owned the property, Marshals held the crowd back as fresh food was piled into dumpsters and shipped off to a landfill.

But there was a change in course when the company driving the trucks realized they were trashing perfectly fine food.

“We thought it would be a good thing to take the good material that was not going to perish, instead of just take it to the landfill that we would donate that material,” said the owner of Thompson Building Wrecking Company, Hiram Thompson.

Even though a lot of food was saved, there could have been much more.

Golden Harvest officials say when the food was trashed, cleaning supplies were put on top and they leaked onto most of the food.

But they salvaged what they could and they’re preparing to send it back into the community.

“Checking dates, contamination, tears and we’ll clean it up and check it,” McNeal, said.

When the food is shipped off to distribution centers Monday McNeal hopes they will turn what was a waste into help for the hungry.

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