AmeriCorps member Jackie Grant recalled a young woman’s first visit to a Fresh For All market stop. Recently separated from her abusive husband, the mother of three moved in with her grandmother after her job was downsized and she was evicted from her apartment.
The young woman was skeptical, but decided to check out a Fresh For All distribution site in Charleston County. She was pleasantly surprised and so grateful for the fresh, healthy food, Grant said.
People often say, “Nothing is free,” said Grant, whose AmeriCorps role is provided through a partnership with Trident United Way. But we tell them everything is free and that they can have a great meal and not have to worry about what their children are going to eat.
It can be tough to establish healthy habits when your food choices are limited to convenience stores or your budget just won’t stretch to include a cart of mostly fresh fruits and vegetables. More than 7% of Tri-County area families live more than 1 mile from a grocery store in urban areas and more than 10 miles from a grocery store in rural area.
Trident United Way partners with organizations that can help solve this problem for many Tri-County citizens, and one of those partners is the Lowcountry Food Bank.
“As food banks, we want to focus on providing not just emergency food systems, but opportunities for clients to make healthy choices,” said Alicia Duffany, food strategy manager at Lowcountry Food Bank.
In a farmers’ market-style, Fresh For All is reaching rural communities, food deserts and other areas where access to fresh produce is limited. When the program first started, the goal was to create 16 of these farmers market experiences, Duffany said. This year, Fresh For All is on pace to do 90 of them -- still just scratching the surface of the need.
At each stop, Lowcountry Food Bank distributes about 8,000 pounds of produce to some 200 families free of charge. And the farmers market set up allows people to shop with a sense of dignity and make healthy choices for their families. Duffany said the markets offer a wide variety of items from eggplant to carrots, depending on the growing season. Fresh For All also partners with the Food Bank’s nutrition team to provide recipe cards and instructions on how to cook produce that might be less familiar. At some stops they have samples so customers can try new foods.
“Our primary goal is to fill in the gap for folks who might not have enough to eat at home,” Duffany said.
Almost 13% of families in the Tri-County lack a reliable food source throughout the year. Good nutrition is the foundation for overall good health and key to preventing chronic disease and illness. Providing families with easy access to free fruits and vegetables leads to healthier families. The trickle down impact of good health is significant: reduced health care costs, children who can focus on their education and adults who aren’t missing work due to poor health.
Photo credits: Paul Cheney, Paul Cheney Photography