When the NBA suspended its season March 11 due to the coronavirus, the Hawks were left with 12,000 pounds of food they had ordered in preparation for upcoming games and events at State Farm Arena, according to CEO Steve Koonin.

With those either postponed or canceled, the Hawks donated what they could to those in need in Atlanta by partnering with Second Helpings and Goodr, which both focus on reducing food waste and instead delivering it to those in need.

Then, Goodr CEO Jasmine Crowe pitched the idea of holding pop-up grocery stores, which the Hawks and Goodr had teamed up to do once before in January of 2019. The Hawks agreed, wanting to help underserved communities throughout the city during this pandemic. Within about 24 hours, a plan started taking shape.

“We feel it’s our responsibility,” Koonin said. “(Hawks owner) Tony Ressler believes we’re a community asset and in times like these, we need to be an active part of the community. This isn’t about marketing and brand-building, it’s truly about us lifting and helping others.”

With donations from the Hawks Foundation and State Farm, Goodr will hold five pop-up grocery stores, operated similarly to a drive-through (or walk-through) so as to follow the CDC's social distancing guidelines and avoid a large crowd. Families will receive a free large bag of food containing fresh produce, proteins and shelf-stable items, with each pop-up expected to provide 300-600 families (depending on family size) with two weeks of groceries, about 20-plus pounds of food. Milk, Gatorade and water will also be available, per Crowe.

For elderly people who cannot make it to the pop-ups in person, Goodr is able to deliver food to homes.

The pop-ups will take place at the At-Promise Youth Center, Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation & Aquatic Center, Thomasville Recreation Center, Center of Hope at Central Park in Old Fourth Ward and the C.T. Martin Natatorium and Recreation Center. The first pop-up took place Friday, and registration for future pop-ups opens every Monday morning online (link won't be active until March 23), with dates and times shared after registration.

A woman grabs fresh produce.  BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL
A woman grabs fresh produce. BRANDEN CAMP/SPECIAL

Credit: Branden Camp

Credit: Branden Camp

With the food supply of so many children affected by schools closing, and with elderly people at high risk for health issues presented by COVID-19, it was important to the Hawks to get food into the hands of more vulnerable populations.

“Food insecurity was a pretty easy thing to see was going to be a problem,” Koonin said. “A lot of people don’t have the capacity to get to the store, a lot of stores are out of products and, in areas of Atlanta, kids are fed two meals a day in school. When you take them out of school, you take away that source of feeding them, so that’s what really the inspiration was.”

For Crowe, this service is critical, as more families are out of work and struggling to put food on the table.

“We’re getting food to families and they are all but crying,” Crowe said. “Some of them are in tears. We see messages from families where they’re like ‘This food delivery came right on time, I was literally sitting here wondering what I was going to do for dinner tonight.’ ”

Ressler and his wife Jami Gertz also personally donated to Goodr, matching the donations made by the Hawks Foundation and State Farm.

In Other News