Poor, but feeding the rich – Once middle-class, Andono and Alan Bryant of Atlanta now live below the poverty line. Alan feeds the rich as a line cook at Ruth's Chris Steak House making $11 an hour. Andono is a nursing student at Atlanta Technical College. Atlanta has the highest income inequality in the nation, ahead of New Orleans, Washington and Miami, according to the Census Bureau. Atlanta is plagued by near 10% unemployment, yet it's also home to the third largest concentration of Fortune 500 companies.
Poor, but feeding the rich – Andono lost her job at a grocery strore after an injured knee prevented her from working 40 hours, she says. About the same time, Alan lost his job with DoubleTree Hotels -- and with it, their health insurance. In 2006 Andono suffered a heart attack. She spent nine days in the hospital, undergoing an angioplasty so a stent could be inserted to help blood flow. The result: a whopping $47,000 bill, the family says.
Poor, but feeding the rich – Andono joins fellow Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative members in unloading groceries from a truck in Atlanta. "If it were not for the co-op," she says, "a lot of us would not be able to survive. This is the bridge that helps get us over." The Bryants used to make $40,000, lived in their own home, and gave to others. She comes to the co-op to get groceries every two weeks. "We went from the giving to the receiving," she says.
Poor, but feeding the rich – Co-op members pack fresh vegetables. The income gap is on full display at the Georgia Avenue Food Cooperative, nestled in the heart of Atlanta's historic Grant Park, a bustling, gentrified neighborhood. Ninety-three percent of the co-op members live in poverty, says founder Chad Hale.
Poor, but feeding the rich – Andono stacks and organizes food for distribution at the co-op, which meets in the basement of the Georgia Avenue Presbyterian Church.
Poor, but feeding the rich – The co-op has received some neighborhood opposition from those who fear it could bring crime into the community. "We believe we're doing quite the opposite," Hale says. "By providing food, by alleviating that stress and fear, you lower the crime rate. If you don't have enough food, you'll begin to do things that you never thought of."
Poor, but feeding the rich – Members pack boxes with a hodgepodge of items ranging from cereal and canned goods to cleaning supplies.
Poor, but feeding the rich – Each member pays $3 for over $100 worth of groceries and is required to pitch in and help with the distribution. Hale says the co-op has a waiting list of 100 people who want to join. With the recession, he says, "They're calling more insistently than ever, asking, 'When can I get in?'" He adds, "The recession has added to the problem. Many of our people who had jobs lost them."
Poor, but feeding the rich – Co-op member Annie Bain sings for the group during a brief prayer service and business meeting before the food is distributed.
Poor, but feeding the rich – Andono loads the family's only car with the food. Families arrive by foot, bike, bus and car at the co-op in Atlanta's historic Grant Park, a bustling intown neighborhood that has seen home values skyrocket over the past decade. Andono says it's humiliating to pull out food stamps at the grocery store and feel the stares. "People don't understand that there's a pride factor involved," she says. "I want people to understand that we're not lazy, we've just been dealt a different hand."