Discover’s Eat It Forward program is helping give Black-owned businesses—including one in the First State—a boost.
The program recently awarded Wilmington’s Serena’s Soul Food, a local food truck that began operating in 2016 and has since been looking to expand. Through the prize funding, the eatery will be able to establish a brick-and-mortar location in the Branmar Plaza, located at 1806 Marsh Road in Wilmington.
Discover began the Eat It Forward program to give back to its communities, especially to those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, many Black Americans are experiencing a disproportionate amount of funding compared to white-owned businesses, according to Discover officials.
“According to research from the University of California at Santa Cruz, there were more than one million Black-owned businesses in the United States at the beginning of February. By mid-April, 440,000 Black business owners had shuttered their company for good– a 41 percent plunge. By comparison, 17 percent of white-owned businesses closed during the same period,” Bob Winfree, Discover director of regional operations, said in an email.
As businesses are finding ways to work around current Center for Disease Control restrictions, they are beginning to reopen with hopes of bringing back the crowds from before the COVID-19 era.
Serena Kelley, owner of Serena’s Soul Food, is doing just that.
“Even if you were to come out and look on Market Street [in Downtown Wilmington], everybody is like six feet apart. It is a line down the street, and everyone has their masks on.”
Discover not only initiated the Eat It Forward program to directly award funds to Black-owned restaurants, but also awarded Discover members for their personal contributions to the restaurant industry.
“We wanted to create a program that helped these restaurants stay open during this difficult time,” says Winfree. “We thought this campaign was a perfect way to give back to local restaurants and our cardmembers.”
Serena’s Soul Food is using the funds to expand to a sit-down restaurant in Wilmington, expected to open in January 2021, while continuing to use the food truck for events. The restaurant received the prize money, and many others still can—through nominations on social media.
“I posted on my page and I told everyone to nominate us and they did. Like two weeks later, we got a direct message and they told us that we were nominated and that was awesome,” Kelley says. During a crucial time for the Black Lives Matter movement, Kelley found the win to be especially rewarding.
Serena’s Soul Food is known for many standout dishes, but some fan favorites include the seafood mac and cheese, whiting fish and crab balls. The food truck is located at North Market and East 32nd streets, Tuesday through Thursday from noon–5 p.m.
Besides the truck’s reputation of seafood and soul food combinations, customers like Jessica Strickland say the customer service is why they keep coming back.
“I love her interaction with [customers], she is friendly, and food is delicious. I will always support her,” she says.
The last of the randomized drawings for winners of the Eat It Forward program will end on Oct. 31.
For more information on the Discover Eat it Forward program, visit eatitforwardterms.com.