by Elizabeth W. Duda
Apr. 4, 2020 (York County) COVID-19 disrupted people’s lives, and often their food routines and access. Healthy People Healthy Carolinas (HPHC) reminds us that people struggling to feed themselves and their families is not new to COVID-19: in 2017, 15% or more of children in York County were living in food-insecure households. But HPHC’s Zack King highlights that need is increasing exponentially due to COVID-19 and its economic impacts. Last week, 64,856 South Carolinians filed initial jobless claims, up 108% from the prior week and 3,149% two weeks before. Eat Smart Move More York County (ESMMYC) recognizes our community partners’ important work to help people gain access to healthy food and reduce food insecurity in these challenging times.
Organizations and individuals, including nonprofit Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CSFA), advocated with state and local governments to ensure farmers markets could stay open to distribute food, just like supermarkets – particularly important in food desserts. They were successful, and farmers markets, farm produce stands and food banks are considered essential businesses and operations by the SC Governor’s executive order 2020-17 shutting down non-essential businesses.
Organizations pulled together information to create maps and guidance to direct community members to food-access resources:
- Nonprofit Rivendell Farms of the Carolinas, in partnership with KK&P, created a “COVID-19 emergency food resources” interactive map of NC and SC using information it collected via its “COVID-19 food resources survey.” It displays drive-up distribution; food delivery; food boxes; free-lunch program (for children; and adults); prepared meals; and resources (for seniors; and children). The map also shows organizations needing food donations; financial donations; or another need. Rivendell Farms’s main goal now is to put information in the hands of the general public. It already was in the process of mapping our regions’ food system and leveraged relationships built for that project to add more resources for this current situation.
- Nonprofit Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) convened partners statewide to pull together “food insecurity resources” which include funding opportunities, food-system resources, data, statewide activity and activity by county; it collected information via this survey. ESMMSC is holding statewide and regional “Food Insecurity Coalition” conference calls. It also documented “Best Practices for Non-Congregate Food Distribution Logistics” during COVID-19. ESMMSC noted that, before this crisis, nearly 680,000 people in SC did not know where their next meal would come from, and that likely would increase in the current environment. And ESMMSC is now sharing this survey to ask community partners, who deliver free meals in our communities, what assistance they need. ESMMSC will connect them to resources and other people doing this work.
- CFSA created an interactive Google map listing farms across NC and SC with on-farm pickups, home delivery and online pre-orders to accommodate social distancing. The CSFA also compiled Coronavirus Resources for Farmers, Consumers, & Farmers Markets Managers.
- Other helpful food information was compiled locally by the United Way of York County (Coronavirus Resource Guide) and Rock Hill School District (Community Resource Guide).
The SC Department of Education is working with the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) and other agencies to ensure local school districts, parents and students have current, accurate COVID-19-related information. Local school districts are ensuring that their students do not go hungry during the long, unexpected absence from school . And all continue to provide food during spring break:
- Rock Hill School District has 15 “Grab and Go” sites at five schools and 10 community meal sites. Rock Hill Schools and Rock Hill Schools Education Foundation continue to provide weekend meals for their students in need through the Back the Pack program. See this WSOC-TV segment.
- Fort Mill School District (FMSD) instituted an emergency meal program with weekly food deliveries of 5 breakfast and 5 lunches, free of charge, for the duration of the school closure to students who qualify for free and reduced meals. It distributes food along two bus routes with 18 stops or students may pick up at the Nation Ford High School bus loop. The FMSD nutrition department has served about 6,000 in the past three weeks to its students. Also, its “backpack program” continues through the food bank with backpacks available periodically at schools.
- York School District One (YSD) is offering daily meal pickup at York Comprehensive High School for all families with students in York School District One. And the YSD transportation team is delivering meals, supplying 5 days worth of lunch and breakfast two days per week. [04/26/2020 update: Changed meal schedule to delivery and meal pick up only on Wednesdays starting this week; will be distributing meal kits for six days of meals including breakfast and lunch.]
- Clover School District is delivering food and instructional materials on three buses to students five days per week. Food also is available at Clover High School and Clover Middle School.
Free-food providers are reporting higher demand. They have changed operating procedures to safely meet their customers’ needs.
- The Community Café distributes approximately 2,000 free meals per week on a regular basis in the three municipalities it serves in Fort Mill, Rock Hill and Lake Wylie. Recently its mobile food truck has seen demand double in Rock Hill, and uptick in Fort Mill. And after consulting with the City of York manager who said, “the need is greater than ever,” they will continue plans to roll out a new route on April 14.
- The Community Café shares its “emergency action plan” with volunteers to promote volunteer and customer health and safety. This included: at its food truck, offering drive-up service only, taking orders and placing food in the car trunks; and where available, teams wear gloves and masks and wash hands or use hand sanitizer every half hour. They have provided state “border crossing” permission slips to volunteers affected by the NC “stay at home” order.
- Its cafeterias now provide “grab and go” bag meals rather than dine-in.
- While the Clover Area Assistance Center (CAAC) has suspended some services, it continues to supply food to people who live within the boundaries of the Clover School District. “We are working with a local transportation partner to deliver food to current clients who are the most vulnerable and have implemented “drive up” food distribution for all others.” Food pick-up hours remain the same. While the full-choice option is temporarily suspended and no one can enter the facility, CAAC volunteers have bagged a wide selection of staple food items for everyone.
- HOPE of Rock Hill continues to serve families, operating with special safety procedures, and on April 2 reported running low on food donations. They reported serving 565 families and 1,355 individuals in March.
Yet, due to safety concerns, some soup kitchens/food pantries have closed temporarily.
- Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen reported that, due to COVID-19 and safety concerns for its guests and volunteers, the Board of Directors decided to temporarily close the Soup Kitchen as of April 2, 2020. Read more in this Rock Hill Herald article.
- Pilgrims’ Inn food pantry in Rock Hill closed on March 31 until further notice. [04/20/2020 update: Food pantry has reopened Tuesdays-Fridays from 8:30am – 1pm.]
Volunteers and food donations are needed:
- The Community Café reported a desperate need of younger (i.e., less “at risk”) volunteers. It also has had challenges securing food given the food-purchase limitations and one substantial donator (EarthFare) recently closing. Though, the FMSD recently donated milk to the Community Cafe when school unexpectedly closed. Sign up to volunteer here. The Community Café has identified other needs for its customers, including health related (e.g., masks, gloves, hand sanitizer), particularly as some live in crowded quarters and may lack running water.
- CAAC receives 100% of its food from donations from the public. “Many of the types of food we distribute to those in need are currently not available in stores. We are extremely grateful for the donations of items that are coming in, but we do not want anyone to take undo risks with their own health and safety by going out into the public in order to purchase food items to donate. We are accepting monetary donations that can be designated for food purchase only, which we will use to buy food from our local grocers once they are able to accept outside orders.”
- HOPE of Rock Hill volunteer information is here and food donation information is here.
- The United Way’s Volunteer SC has volunteer opportunities.
Statewide, nonprofits are compiling info:
- The University of South Carolina Prevention Research Center at the Arnold School of Public Health published, “Information and Free Resources to Support Physical Activity and Healthy Eating during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.”
- Nonprofit SC Thrive compiled coronavirus resources that cover physical and mental health; funding sources; resources for students, veterans, rural providers, nonprofits, early childhood professionals, pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, workers and families.
- ESMMSC “food insecurity resources” (discussed above).
- SC DHEC “COVID-19-related information.”
ESMMYC shared information on #foodinsecurity and access to #healthyfoods in these interviews:
- with Phil Ford of Eat Smart Move More South Carolina and Sheila Caldwell of The Heart2Heart Foundation (04/13/2020) https://youtu.be/wQuMd7Q8W28
- with WRHI’s Patti Mercer & Lucas McFadden (04/16/2020): https://www.wrhi.com/2020/04/041620-elizabeth-duda-eat-smart-move-more-york-county-157924
We are grateful for the work of our community partners. Let us know how we can support your efforts. And we at Eat Smart Move More York County wish you, and your families and neighbors, good health in these difficult times. With updates, to collaborate, or for more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org
 Source: SC Department of Employment and Workforce 04/02/2020 news release.
 Source: Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Clover-Area-Assistance-Center-169068216439609/
 Source: Facebook page (@HOPEofRockHill): https://www.facebook.com/HOPEofRockHill/
 Also see this Rock Hill Herald article on local school closures and resources.