The fall season is upon us and that means we will be gleaning in full force very soon. This blog post is a little refresher on why we do what we do. It is also a reminder of why it is so important to our community.
Why fresh produce? Although government assistance is available to some of those who need it, not everybody qualifies for Food Stamps or other food-assistance programs. The assistance received also does not guarantee access to fresh food. Most food received from emergency food programs are canned and packaged. The healthier, more nutritious foods can be expensive in comparison to the readily available, cheap, processed food. Between 2006 and 2009, obesity rates rose in the tri-county area. Berkeley County has one of the highest adult obesity rates in the state. Eating vegetables provides health benefits – people who eat more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet are likely to have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Vegetables provide nutrients vital for health and maintenance of your body.
South Carolina facts on hunger from Feeding America
Food insecurity rates by its respective County (overall, child)
Charleston, Charleston County (16%, 24%)
N. Charleston, Charleston County (16%, 24%)
Mt. Pleasant, Charleston County (16%, 24%)
“Millions of Americans are unemployed and millions of others are working for reduced wages or working fewer hours. Many of these people never thought they would need a helping hand, but are now turning to programs like SNAP,” said Vicki Escarra, president and CEO of Feeding America.”We know that the number of people coming to Feeding America food banks for assistance increased a staggering 46 percent in the last few years. Food stamps and other anti-hunger programs give hope to struggling Americans and protect them from deeper crisis as they work to get back on their feet.”
Here’s how we help…
Founded in 2006, Fields to Families is a nonprofit organization located in Charleston, South Carolina, that helps the hungry in our community gain access to nutritious fruits and vegetables.
We could not make this happen without our wonderful volunteers and farmers! Our success is measured in pounds and testimonials. The more we can glean the more families we can help. Unfortunately poundage is not always inside of our control as mother-nature has been known to play a role but we do our best to increase the number of meals we can provide every year.
To do so, we depend on the generosity of our neighbors to help us achieve our mission. Those people include the farmers who have agreed to offer us their unused fruits and vegetables, volunteers who help pick produce, community members who give us extras from their gardens, and recipient agencies who help distribute this nutritious food those in need. Without their help and the generosity of people like you — we wouldn’t be able to run our programs.
In 2015, Fields to Families has collected, gleaned, and distributed over 37,000 lbs of fresh fruits and veggies. In 2015, Oasis has collected, gleaned, and distributed 15,000 lbs of fresh fruit and veggies directly to the North Charleston food desert areas. 15,000 pounds equates to 12,000 meals. Together we have distributed 52,000 pounds of fresh produce. There are still three months left in the year! PARTNERSHIPS ROCK!
A lot of us take fresh produce for granted, but to those who have no access it is truly valued.
Fields to Families, outreach partner, OASIS, concentrates on delivering produce to USDA defined food deserts. Food deserts are a harsh reality in South Carolina. According to Clemson University, there are 1,632 rural and 4,897 urban communities that meet the food desert definition. Food deserts are areas identified as lacking healthy retail grocery stores within easy traveling distance of residents. This is leaving families in both urban and rural neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food. Poor nutrition with lack of access to healthy choices contributes to obesity, declining health, diabetes, and poor academic outcomes of neighborhood children.
“Yesterday was an amazing day for sixty plus of our children in the afterschool programs at Ferndale and Liberty Park/Highland Terrace.I bagged a bean and a corn bag or two for each child. I had the opportunity to meet and greet many of the parents and one especially grabbed my heart strings. It was actually the Grandmother picking up her grandson and when I offered the bag to her and told her what it was she exclaimed, “What a blessing. My mother has been wanting some fresh green beans.” Her elderly mother was sitting in the car and just smiled with joy. And yes I gave her an extra bag of beans. Made my day, reminded me what we are doing matters, said a prayer of thanksgiving for all of those that make this endeavor possible.”
Belinda Swindler, who runs the Felix Davis Community Center, wrote to us after receiving watermelons gleaned by our volunteers:
“Re: watermelons Oh my…we made a lot of people happy! I shared with (24) seniors and four families.What a blessing! We just never know the impact we make but the smiles and thanks are priceless. It is a good thing. Thank you again, again and again.”
Donna Bailey, who runs the Sherman House, low income senior housing, has been receiving fresh produce for her residents. She told us the the nurse who comes by to check blood pressure has noticed results! Watermelons and blueberries are better for you than potato chips. Fresh produce is so much healthier than canned. No salt added and full of vitamins.
Access to fresh, healthy produce shouldn’t be so difficult. Food injustice is a social injustice. Let’s address this problem together.
Thank you and we hope to see you out in the fields soon!
If you haven’t already, just sign up on the Fields to Families website and thereafter you will be notified of ALL gleanings – OASIS, Fields to Families, and all joint gleanings.