March 23, 2013 was a chilly day in Augusta, Georgia, when hundreds of families gathered to claim free food from a local supermarket that had been foreclosed. What greeted the hungry people of this neighborhood instead was a line of sheriff's deputies and barricades around the store's entire stock. Local charities had declined to pick up the food, diapers, tolietries, and clothing. Under instruction from the bank, Sun Trust, sheriffs deputies supervised as all the food was put into a dumpster while hungry families watched in horror and disbelief.

The locally-owned store, Laney Supermarket, is a historic landmark that serves a community where unemployment is above 40 percent. The area has few other nearby markets. Until the owners failed to pay rent and were evicted by the property owner, Sun Trust, they offered rides to those who needed them to and from the market. According to the owner, "You know, sometime[s] I would drive three miles from over here, [and] pick them up. After they do their shopping I take them home."

The store owner, Il Choi, claims his business problems were in part due to repeated paperwork snafus and inventory requirements that kept the supermarket from accepting food stamps. "Two years ago first time, you have the paperwork not right. We went to Atlanta fifteen times trip," Choi stated in his limited English.

Although Sun Trust declined to donate the food to charity, they themselves have been the recipients of charity in the form of a government bailout. In 2008, the federal government provided Sun Trust with $4.85 billion in bailout funds, while Sun Trust's CEO, James M. Wells, III, received over $8 million in salary, stock giveaways and stock options. In April of 2009, those stock incentives helped him become chairman of Sun Trust's board.

Sun Trust claims they made arrangements with a local church to distribute the food on site, but that church remains unnamed in new reports and obviously did not show up to collect the food. Local residents were instead greeted by a roll-off dumpster that Sun Trust had managed to arrange to haul the food directly to a landfill.

At the time the food was thrown out, the sheriff intervened, citing "near-riot" conditions. Barricades and armed deputies were placed in between the hungry families and the food while it was loaded into the roll-off dumpster. The owner of the trucking company, Hiram Tompson, disagreed with the sheriff's assessment: "I don't want to contradict the sheriff or be disagreeable, but it wasn't a near riot. People were angry, there were some confrontations."

At Tompson's personal direction, non-perishable items were taken to the facilities of Tompson Demolition and Wrecking, where he engaged a local charity to receive the canned goods and other items. Tompson's personnel sorted, loaded and shipped the goods to the charity at the company‘s expense.

Although this is the first reported bread riot or near riot of today’s "great recession," the only national media to pick this story up was the Huffington Post, whose comments section was littered with remarks disparaging the race of the hungry families. As of press time, HuffPo's moderators had not removed the dozens of racist comments.


Sources: WBJF Atlanta (ABC), Securities and Exchange Commission, Huffington Post.