Atlanta entrepreneur Erica ‘Umi’ Clahar of Umi Feeds continues to fight to provide food to the underfed during the COVID-19 pandemic

By Ann Hill Bond | The Atlanta Voice

One night in 2015 after an evening of Elevate Atlanta, Erica “Umi” Clahar, founder and executive director of Umi Feeds, realized that a few pinwheel platters were unused and decided to ask the event coordinators if she could take the platters to the homeless at Woodruff Park.

Briefly hesitating, they allowed her to do so.

She left the event and headed straight to the park, upon getting out of her car and distributing the pinwheels amongst the people sitting, walking, sleeping一she realized what her Aunt Nadia was teaching her on the days that she would take her to volunteer to serve the homeless in Manhattan 25 years prior.

Clahar returned home and developed her now five-year non-profit Umi Feeds. Her business was started from an organic mission to spread love through food.

“I am a community servant and my stewardship is through food,” Clahar said.

She started her business organically. What started out as not wanting to see good food go to waste turned into so much more.

To date, we’ve served over 25,000 meals to homeless men and women in Atlanta, Miami, New York, and Mississippi. However, Clahar finds herself giving more than just food.

Over the years she has shared healthy meals, barber services, free yoga, clothing, personal hygiene products, books, and so much more.

“As one person in the world, I know the lives I have impacted in the past five years” Clahar explains. “I know that with little simple change in our daily lives we can help end hunger in Atlanta.”

“COVID-19 brought about extreme restrictions to an already restricted population. The hostile architecture, the lack of services, decrease in resources, and the disappearing of shelters一has pushed more homeless people into the unknown spaces of Atlanta”

Clahari does most of her research, content creating, and planning by herself in her home in the suburbs of Atlanta.

She has a great partnership with The Safe House where she prepares and stores meals for her nightly feeding and GrowLanta where she tends to a local garden in the Mechanicsville community to ensure that the homeless population has access to some quality fruits and vegetables.

Clahar also has a few community sponsorships with local restaurants and warehouses that call her for food rescue services.

“We all know that restaurants throw away a decent amount of food every night. I wish those same restaurants that refuse to give the food to me or other food rescue agencies knew and understood the ‘good samaritan act 一 so, in return they can help others in need.” Clahar said.

The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act of 1996 was created to encourage food donation to nonprofit organizations by minimizing liability.

Signed into United States law by then-President Bill Clinton, this law, named after Representative Bill Emerson, makes it easier to donate ‘apparently wholesome food’ by excluding donor liability except in cases of gross negligence or intentional misconduct.

Even with this Act in effect Clahar says, some for-profit companies are still not comfortable with donating.

“Everyone can do something一 Everyone can give something, no matter the size or the item. Here in Atlanta, we are suffering from a major homeless and hunger crisis… that might get worse pending this pandemic,” Clahar said.

“Atlanta has homeless people sleeping outside of City Hall trying to find a safe space. We should all do something without making assumptions. Even if that something is a kind smile of acknowledgment,”.