ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Eric Atwater grew up watching his grandparents and parents serving the South St. Pete community. Their BBQ restaurant, Atwaters, has been around since 1952.
“This is the only thing I know. This grill, this kitchen, this building,” said Atwater.
He said the people he cooks for aren’t just customers, they are family, and now there are a lot of family members who could use a free meal.
“My whole life was giving, I've seen my mom give, I’ve seen my dad give, and I’m just continuing their legacy,” said Atwater.
He has now partnered up with the South St. Pete Emergency COVID-19 Coalition. Every day they receive food donations, but they need places to prepare the food and hand it out. Atwater was one of the first to raise his hand.
“We are here to help spread the word and make sure they are eating fresh produce to make sure they are getting a healthy meal,” said Erica Hardison, with the South St. Pete Emergency COVID-19 Coalition
Having a central location that everyone knows and trusts was important given some of the challenges these families are facing, like transportation.
“In an area that is already strapped by food insecurity and food access, it’s hard to get to the food, so having the food right here makes a big difference,” said Hardison.
Sharon Madison is thankful to be taking home meals to her three grandchildren.
“I don’t have a job, but if I have them, I still have to feed them,” said Madison.
Atwater said it’s the children that inspire him the most. The look on their faces after handing them a plate is all the thanks he needs.
“They come, I enjoy seeing them, they enjoy seeing me, I make jokes, I cook good food for them,” said Atwater.