Everyone Can Access Fresh Produce –FoodShare Lancaster Tells York County How

by Elizabeth W. Duda

Dec. 12, 2020 (York County, SC) “Access to fresh, affordable food should not be limited by where you live or how much you make!” This belief drives the efforts of the FoodShare Lancaster and FoodShare South Carolina (SC) guests who spoke at the Eat Smart Move More York County (ESMMYC) December 2020 general meeting.

FoodShare Lancaster launched its fresh produce box distribution just last month! But the process started in early 2020. That was when Irini Guda McCarthy of the Lancaster County Health and Wellness Commission learned about FoodShare SC, and connected with Bekah Clawson of HOPE in Lancaster. They knew they had to bring the program to their community.

This could help reduce food insecurity, common in rural areas due to lack of access, affordability and education. Ms. Guda McCarthy shared that food insecurity, and its impact on health, is a critical challenge in our area – with over 19% of the southeastern U.S. living in poverty. So the Lancaster County Health and Wellness Commission partnered with HOPE in Lancaster to form FoodShare Lancaster. They also got support from Eat Smart Move More Lancaster County and the Upper Midlands Rural Health Network. Their goal was to improve health by increasing access to fresh produce, and nutritional and culinary education, for people of all income levels throughout Lancaster County.

They encourage all Lancaster residents to take advantage of the monthly fresh produce box. Families can buy a box for themselves. And some may buy an “Angel Box” that FoodShare Lancaster will donate to a local community member. FoodShare Lancaster is in the process of getting SNAP certified (formerly food stamps) so that people can use their nutrition benefits, including Healthy Bucks which lets them double the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables bought via SNAP. But the payment form will be anonymous – so when you pick up your box, people can’t tell if you paid full price, are using your SNAP benefits, or are receiving a donated box. In the future, they hope the medical industry and insurers will support a “produce prescription program.”

FoodShare Lancaster volunteers distribute produce boxes

Education is a key part of the FoodShare program, and each box includes a recipe card. But FoodShare Lancaster takes it a step farther, leveraging HOPE in Lancaster’s teaching kitchen and nutritionist. She already was doing Facebook Live videos, Tiny Chefs for children, and classes online for seniors. Following the November food box distribution, the Teaching Kitchen Coordinator filmed a video using two FoodShare Lancaster recipes!

In our community, Impact York County is pursuing becoming a Foodshare hub. Shekinah Miller, Healthy People Healthy Carolinas project manager, is researching sites for storage, assembly, and distribution, and equipment and staffing needs, including dedicated volunteers.

What was FoodShare Lancaster’s biggest challenge? In addition to launching during Covid-19 (!), finding the right person to run it, and obtaining the necessary funding. But they found the right partnerships and obtained Covid-grant funding. ESMMYC believes that our community partner, Impact York County, is up to the challenge!

Thanks to FoodShare Lancaster & FoodShare SC Leaders who spoke at the ESMMYC meeting:

  1. Bekah Clawson, Executive Director, HOPE in Lancaster, Inc.
  2. Irini Guda McCarthy, Project Director, Upper Midlands Rural Health Network
  3. Courtney Watson, Community Outreach Coordinator, FoodShare SC