As a successful record label owner, Tony Draper has always felt fulfilled by his work.
But that feeling reached new heights when he co-created the Feed Your City Challenge, which is touring the U.S. to bring groceries to those in need, the Suave House Records founder said.
“I sold 10 million records, but I didn’t get the feeling I get now,” Draper said Saturday when the Challenge made its ninth stop nationally on the Far South Side.
The giveaway — which will feed 7,000 people with about 95,000 pounds of food — was also star-studded.
Challenge co-founder and NBA veteran Ricky Davis, music producer No I.D., rapper G Herbo and others showed up to hand-deliver the groceries to a line of cars that stretched blocks from the Pullman Community Center, 10355 S. Woodlawn Ave.
The center has had mass giveaways before, but nothing as large as the Feed Your City Challenge, according to the center’s general manager Kristin Curtis.
Rapper G Herbo distributes groceries Saturday to community members during the Feed Your City Challenge in West Pullman. Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
“During Covid, people were hit so hard in our community — just financially and by losing jobs,” Curtis said. “And helping them with fresh produce and quality food shows them we’re here. I feel like this is a great equalizer.”
Curtis said she also wants people to leave feeling respected.
“I want them to go away feeling they’re special and that ordinary, everyday people still matter,” she said.
The one-day program also aims to bring awareness to the issue of food insecurity in America — a major barrier to children’s health.
“Something so simple as a kid going home with food in his belly can save a lot of drama,” said Jabari Parker, who grew up in the city and previously played for the Chicago Bulls.
“Because that’s where a lot of tension comes from. People are really just starving,” said Parker, now signed to the Sacramento Kings.
Former Chicago Bull Jabari Parker, now with the Sacramento Kings, signs a ball during the Feed Your City Challenge on Saturday in West Pullman. Pat Nabong/Sun-Times
Comedian Nick Cannon, who also attended, said that the Challenge was just one way to help address inequality in the community.
“There’s a lot of challenges in 2020, and we’re taking responsibility for our own, and we’re coming to feed the community … but [also] to say, ‘You can’t lead the people until you feed the people,’” Cannon said.
Food isn’t the only thing Draper said he hopes the Challenge brings people in the community.
“I’m providing a joyful experience. I want you to be happy to come out and see your people treat you with respect,” Draper said.