COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) -Hundreds of thousands are living without enough food here in the Palmetto State. The Department of Social Services helps to address this issue for one of our most vulnerable populations through an annual program. It’s called the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
The program has been available here in the Palmetto State since 2001, initially only in six counties. Now, it’s in 42 counties. The annual program started again this week giving more of our seniors access to unprocessed fruits and vegetables, while also supporting South Carolina’s small farmers giving them an opportunity to sell their produce.
Participants receive $25 over the course of five months to buy fresh produce at authorized locations. The program is just one way the state is working to address the issue of food deserts and food insecurity affecting families across the country. This refers to limited access to enough food for an active healthy lifestyle.
According to Feeding America, a hunger relief program, in 2017 there were nearly 700,000 people living with food insecurity in South Carolina.
“We’re targeting seniors who are 60 years of age or older. We want to provide fresh fruits and nutritious vegetables in their local areas and so we provide this benefit to them throughout 42 of the counties,"program coordinator with DSS Seandra Kelly said. "This is a two-part program. We authorize farmers to be able to sell and then we also qualify seniors to be able to receive the benefit.”
Based on data collected in 2017, Feeding America also breaks down the number of people across the Midlands living with limited access to healthy food:
MAPPING THE MEAL GAP
Number of Food Insecure People by County in 2017
LEXINGTON 28,000 OUT OF 280,000
ORANGEBURG 18,000 OUT OF 90,000
RICHLAND 65,000 OUT OF 405,000
SUMTER 19,000 OUT OF 107,000
DSS officials say the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program is just one step in the right direction to tackle the issue of food deserts in the Palmetto State.
“It is a major problem that we are looking at. We look at mapping. We try to make sure that farmers aren’t too close to each other to kind of space out that produce that they’re providing," Kelly said. “We do look at those things as far as providing access for seniors. We want to make sure that they have what they need and if they don’t then we try to look for ways to get nutritious fruits and vegetables out there for them.”
The program will run through October of this year.
If you’re a senior interested in applying for this program, visit: http://www.ascr.usda.gov/complaint_filing_cust.html