Spartanburg families receive a helping, healthy lift

June 17th 2020

Published by the Spartanburg Herald Journal; to view the full article, click here

Tuesday afternoon, cars filled with Spartanburg residents wrapped around Mary H. Wright Elementary School to pick up boxes of produce. Volunteers dropped off boxes filled with tomatoes, onions, sweet potatoes, lettuce, corn and more in the back seats of cars while people yelled “thank yous” and children waved.

The produce giveaway was organized by Rep. Rosalyn Henderson-Myers (D-Spartanburg), Eat Smart Move More South Carolina and Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas. Volunteers joined Henderson-Myers and event organizers to hand out boxes and bags of produce and vouchers for $10 at the Hub City Farmers’ Market.

“COVID-19 and people being out of work or having to work reduced hours and families not being able to have money to feed themselves,” was Henderson-Myers’ inspiration for the event, she said.

In Spartanburg County, about 93,000 people live in a food desert, or an area where people have limited access to healthy and affordable food, according to South Carolina DHEC’s food desert map. More than 8,000 of those live along South Church Street near Mary H. Wright Elementary School.

The pandemic has made it even harder for those living in food deserts to find healthy food to eat, said Alissa Duncan, Spartanburg food systems coordinator for Partners for Active Living.

South Carolina’s food desert map

“It exacerbates the problem,” Duncan said about COVID-19. “A food desert is a characteristic of low income and low access combined.”

Last year, a Save-A-Lot supermarket went out of business in the area, leaving those who live around that area of South Church Street without an easily accessible grocery store. There have been discussions about a new grocery store opening in the area, Henderson-Myers said, but she hasn’t heard of any recent progress.

Though there were 200 boxes and 50 bags available, the cars kept coming, wrapping all the way around the school, down Marion Avenue and onto South Church Street.

“Only one per car, I’m sorry,” volunteers said to those with two or three families in their cars.

Mattie Sarter drove with her friend, Amy Fuller, to pick up produce, but they were only able to get one box.

“I got five in my family,” Sarter said, unable to share the produce with Fuller. Fuller lives near South Church Street and Sarter normally picks her up to take her to the grocery store.

Henderson-Myers said she hopes to host more events like this in the future to help her community.

“The overall impact is that people will get some healthy foods and they’ll be able to feed their families, at least for the few meals that they’ll provide,” Henderson-Myers said.

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