Food drive held for hospitality workers in Savannah hit hard by the pandemic

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Source: FOX28

America’s Second Harvest worked with the Tourism and Leadership Council to put together a food drive just for them.

The tourism and hospitality industry employs about 27,000 people in Savannah. Hundreds of workers drove through River Street Thursday morning to get food to feed their families.

"Today were prepared for over 1,000 households to receive pantry stock so that 70 pounds of food fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, canned goods as well to help those that are in the hospitality and tourism community that have frankly been hit the hardest by this pandemic," said Michael Owens, President and CEO of the Tourism and Leadership Council.

Jessica McLeod came through the food drive on her bike.

"By the grace of God, today here on River Street, the folks from the pantry gave me a whole bicycle basket full of food," she said as she fought back tears.

Usually, you can find McLeod making roses on River Street or working at a local hotel. But she lost her job and then got the coronavirus.

"On March 4, I came down with the COVID-19 virus. I was told to self-quarantine based on my symptoms, my husband also came down with it. We were down for almost two weeks, had issues with our lungs, luckily by the grace of God made it through," said McLeod.

She’s now healthy again, but she’s struggling to make ends meet.

"I’m just grateful to the city that folks opened their hearts and were willing to fill up my bike so we have something to eat because for the last few weeks, since I lost my job and since there’s no tourism for me to come out and make roses, it’s been an extraordinary situation to go through," she said.

She along with about a thousand other people who work in the hospitality industry who are struggling came through the food drive.

Owens says the impact the pandemic is having on the industry is severe.

"We took that hit right on, our folks in the restaurant community and hotel community, most have laid off anywhere between 70 to 90% of their staff," he said.

He says people lined up an hour before the food drive even started, just waiting for a little help.

"With so many people out here so early, they were here well over an hour before we opened up, it’s very clear that the need has been determined here just by the volume that we’re seeing. We’re seeing friends of ours, family members we’ve worked with for many years alongside each other at hotels and restaurants in this community, they need help," he said.

Thanks to America’s Second Harvest, many families now have food on their tables. The Georgia National Guard handed out the food.